Details from James Comey’s new book exploded across the media landscape yesterday, as outlets raced to post stories on what has become the second book to shake Washington in 2018. Even before the New York Post led with Comey’s claim that President Trump had asked him to investigate the most salacious detail contained in the infamous Steele dossier, the GOP had launched a website aimed at discrediting the former FBI Director.
Comey’s memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, reportedly covers his upbringing, as well as important moments during his time serving under Presidents Bush and Obama. But the chapters getting attention are those describing Comey’s interactions with Donald Trump from January 2017 until Comey was fired in May of that year. Those expecting new information on the investigation that still shadows the administration will apparently be disappointed. But based on excerpts quoted so far, Comey doesn’t hold back judgement on Trump’s actions and temperament.
“The book is an indictment of Trump’s presidency as well as of his character,” The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker writes. “Each chapter can be interpreted as an elaborate trolling of Trump, starting with the title, A Higher Loyalty, a subtle reference to the loyalty pledge that Trump sought and did not receive from Comey.”
Comey’s reemergence allows for a strange reexamination of recent history. Since the moment in July 2016 when he announced the FBI would not recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server, Comey has been an almost constant presence, at least tangentially, in the news. He has been, at varying times, hero and villain to partisans on both sides of the aisle, and his firing in May of 2017 was the impetus for the appointment of a special counsel whose investigation continues to make news as it draws closer to President Trump’s inner circle.
The general public won’t be able to get their hands on a copy of A Higher Loyalty until next Tuesday, so until then we’ll be left with excerpts, reviews, and interviews with the former FBI Director. It’s going to be a long four days.
Below, a few notes from the early reviews, and more on the Comey media circus.
- NYT: The New York Times brought former chief book critic Michiko Kakutani out of retirement for the occasion. “The central themes that Comey returns to throughout this impassioned book are the toxic consequences of lying; and the corrosive effects of choosing loyalty to an individual over truth and the rule of law,” she writes.
- Associated Press: The AP’s Chad Day and Jonathan Lemire write that Comey “casts Trump as a mobster-like figure who sought to blur the line between law enforcement and politics and tried to pressure him personally regarding his investigation into Russian election interference.”
- ABC News: George Stephanapolous has already recorded the first televised interview with Comey. It will air Sunday night on a special edition of 20/20. This morning, ABC posted the first excerpt from their conversation.
- Warnings about the hype: The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan cautioned against the “swoonfest” that would greet Comey’s book. “The conflict-addicted media love a high-profile fight, and Comey vs. Trump continues to be a classic steel cage match,” she writes. “That is all fine, as long as some critical distance is brought to bear.”
Other notable stories
- The Washington Post’s Whitney Shefte and Alice Li have a documentary on the student newspaper at Stoneman Douglas High School, as young journalists balance tragedy, grieving, and reporting. The Stoneman Douglas Eagle Eye produced a special edition with tributes for each of the 17 people killed on February 14. CJR’s Meg Dalton and Alexandria Neason previously spoke with Eagle Eye student-journalists in the week after the shooting.
- Both the AP and The New Yorker published stories yesterday about how The National Enquirer’s owner bought and spiked a story about an alleged Donald Trump “love child.” Politico’s Michael Calderone examines the calculations news organizations have to make in the Trump era, “in which salacious allegations are often bandied about, while the efforts of the president and his allies to control the media narrative are often news in themselves.”
- The Hollywood Reporter has a strangely sympathetic profile of Charlie Rose, the former CBS and PBS star who has been accused of sexual harassment by more than a dozen women.
- The Associated Press’s David Bauder sat down with the hosts of the president’s favorite show, reporting that Fox & Friends looks much the same as it has for the past two decades. “The difference now,” Bauder writes, “is that one of its regular viewers is the most powerful person in the world, who takes his cues from what he sees.”
- Last weekend, The Denver Post pleaded with its owner to sell the paper. On Thursday, The New York Times’s Sydney Ember reported that a Colorado civic group has begun contacting potential investors in the state, and that $10 million has been pledged so far. Meanwhile, CJR’s Corey Hutchins writes that the Post’s rebellion has received a mixed response from other papers across the Digital First Media landscape.