5 Media Stories From the Comey Hearing

The angles, the angles

When it is all over, the anthology of reporting, analysis and opinion on former FBI director James Comey’s testimony today in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee (hashtag ComeyHearing, hashtag ComeyDay) will be massive. We’re doing our part to contribute to the textual overflow by taking a look at some of the media angles and narratives that have emerged from this, some new and specific to his testimony today, some a continuing illustration of larger trends. We’ve collected those stories below.

CNN was wrong about what it reported Comey planned to say
This one happened before the hearing even began. In an on-air report Tuesday night, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger stated that Comey was planning to testify that he had never told President Trump that the president was not a subject of the Russia investigation. The opening statement Comey released yesterday stated that Trump had been told he wasn’t under investigation. CNN has since corrected its report, online and on air.

Comey says New York Times got the facts wrong in a February report
The report was about contact between members of the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials prior to the election. The sources were “four current and former American officials.”

“In the main, it was not true,” was how Comey described the story.

And he had something to say about sourcing.

“The challenge, and I’m not picking on reporters, about writing stories about classified information is the people talking about it often don’t really know what’s going on and those of us who actually know what’s going on are not talking about it,” he said. “And we don’t call the press and say, ‘Hey, you got that thing wrong.’”

This is likely a story that Trump defenders will pull out time and again as a rule, rather than an exception, to discount every anonymously sourced report on administration scandals.

But there were a lot of things the media got right
Here’s Callum Borchers’ rundown:

In testimony on Thursday, however, Comey corroborated several news reports in the Times and The Washington Post that were based on leaks. He confirmed that Trump sought a loyalty pledge. He confirmed asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to leave him alone with the president.

Comey confirmed the reported contents of a memo about a conversation he had with Trump that focused on former national security adviser Michael Flynn — and added that he, himself, directed a friend to leak the memo to the Times.

Comey’s testimony Thursday buttressed more media reports than it discredited.

Sometimes the leaks come indirectly from the horse’s mouth
It was Comey who leaked his own memo, releasing it via a friend, Columbia law professor Daniel Richman.

The reason he did it through a friend? “I was worried the media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point. And I was actually going out of town with my wife to hide. And I worried it would be like feeding seagulls at the beach, if it was I who gave it to the media.” (That’s going to be turned into a cartoon, right?)

The reason he leaked it at all? “I thought it might prompt the appointment of a special counsel,” he said.

Conservative and mainstream media reported from different planets
In what is probably the most unsurprising news to come out of this, conservative and mainstream media’s analysis of the proceedings and the details on which they focused existed in two distinct spaces. The former space depicted a world in which Comey’s testimony let Trump off the hook, while in the latter’s it implicated Trump further, particularly around the reason–Russia investigation–President Trump fired Comey.

There was one strange moment of coalescence this afternoon with very similar CNN and Fox News Headlines relating to the White House response to the hearing. “The White House fires back: ‘The President is not a liar'” was CNN’s formulation, while Fox News’ was “TRUMP TEAM SHOOTS BACK President’s lawyer tries to turn tables on Comey, denies accusations.”