During FBI director James Comey‘s news conference Tuesday morning, he said “opinions are irrelevant,” though there will be plenty of them on cable and broadcast news as TV news covers the fallout from the FBI’s decision not to recommend criminal charges against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Comey, whose 11 a.m. ET briefing was carried live on all networks, gave a detailed explanation of how Clinton’s use of a personal email server was “reckless” but did not justify a criminal prosecution.
“This is a game-changer for the Clinton campaign,” said MSNBC’s Kristen Welker, describing the bottom line as “carelessness, but no misconduct.” Welker said that will be welcome news for Clinton, set to debut alongside President Obama on the campaign trail later today.
On CNN, political director David Chalian said the news conference had gifts for both Clinton–and Trump. “Huge sigh of relief that there will be no criminal charges…but guys, Jim Comey basically just cut an ad for Hillary Clinton’s opponent, if they want to use it.”
Moments later, CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin said “it’s an enormous relief for Hillary Clinton and her campaign. This was a dagger aimed at the heart of her campaign, and she has avoided being charged. It’s as simple as that.”
Fox News followed the news conference with Danny Coulson, a former FBI deputy assistant director, who said Comey’s conclusions–sure to be debated–should be respected. “I’m very confident if he says it’s not criminal then I have to go along with it. I have to believe it’s true and we’re lucky to have a man like that running the FBI, he’s very independent and very capable.”
FNC chief political anchor Bret Baier, joining by phone, said the key political takeaway will be Comey’s description of Clinton’s handling of her email–including top secret material–as “reckless.” Baier added “I think this is still a political hot potato.”
ABC’s Brian Ross, in an ABC News special report, described it as a “non-criminal indictment…it was everything but a charge.” While on CBS, chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford said the FBI’s decision “removes a cloud that has been looming over this campaign, but doesn’t resolve all the questions.”