How Fox News botched a Comey story and then furiously tried to backtrack
Throughout the June 23 edition of Fox & Friends, the morning show hosts had to continuously walk back and correct a report in which they claimed that former FBI Director James Comey had visited The New York Times the night before. Fox & Friends’ initial incorrect reporting, which was eventually walked back through two follow-up segments, highlights the lack of journalistic standards on Fox News’ flagship morning show.
In the first report, Fox & Friends reporter Jillian Mele stated, “The New York Times gets a special visitor,” to which guest host Ed Henry replied, “Wonder what James Comey was doing at The New York Times. It’s so odd.”
JILLIAN MELE: The New York Times gets a special visitor. The Daily Mail got these pictures of former FBI Director James Comey stopping by their office in Manhattan. He reportedly spent three hours inside.
ED HENRY (CO-HOST): Wonder what James Comey was doing at The New York Times. It’s so odd.
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Why would he go right in the front door?
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): I know. He’s not even trying to hide.
HENRY: He’s wearing sunglasses.
Fox & Friends began to backtrack in its second segment on the matter, noting that a spokesperson for The New York Times had stated that Comey hadn’t gone to the paper’s offices, and admitting that Comey could have entered other offices within the New York Times building. The hosts semi-acknowledged that “there may be a law firm in that building that had some sort of event for abused children” that Comey actually attended. (Reporting from the previous night had pictures of Comey at that event.) The hosts, however, continued to cast doubt, stating, “We just don’t know.”
STEVE DOOCY: Well, yesterday, just about four blocks from where we’re sitting right now, somebody realized, hey, who’s that really tall guy going into The New York Times?
ED HENRY: I’ve seen him on TV.
DOOCY: He’s wearing sunglasses. There he is right there, he’s holding his coat. He’s going in with his wife, and he came out with his wife, and —
HENRY: It’s James Comey.
DOOCY: — and sunglasses off. It’s the former FBI director going into the New York Times building.
AINSLEY EARHARDT: Clearly didn’t want to hide it. He’s going in the front door, not the even a back door. He was in there for three hours.
DOOCY: Yeah. The New York Times spokesperson says he did not visit the New York Times newsroom, however, there are other businesses in that building. Also, didn’t go to the newsroom, could have gone to another part.
EARHARDT: It just doesn’t look good. After he admitted to leaking to his friends that work in, that are his journalist friends, it doesn’t look good.
HENRY: There are reporters for The New York Times, we should say, who are tweeting last night and this morning that there may be a law firm in that building that had some sort of event for abused children and that James Comey and his wife may have been visiting them as a charitable thing. They were in there for a couple of hours. Whether they visited more than one office we simply don’t know.
DOOCY: So, it would just be a coincidence that he also leaked stuff to somebody who leaked to them.
HENRY: Yeah, might be a coincidence, yeah.
EARHARDT: Could be a Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton thing. They talked about grandkids, but they were in the plane for a long time; he was in there for three hours.
HENRY: What kind of sunglasses to wear.
In the final report on this topic, hosts continued to walk back their own reporting and speculation, claiming that “now we’re learning more,” despite the fact the tweet they were referring to was sent the previous evening. Host Steve Doocy noted that “there was some speculation” that Comey was at the New York Times building to meet with reporters, failing to note that he and his co-hosts contributed to the speculation, but adding, “As it turns out, that is not the case.”
STEVE DOOCY: Speaking of talk, yesterday there was extremely tall man with glasses seen walking into the New York Times building.
ED HENRY: There he is.
DOOCY: Does that look familiar?
HENRY: That’s James Comey.
DOOCY: That is James Comey.
HENRY: He’s going into the New York Times building.
DOOCY: Three hours later there he comes out. There’s a great big story on Daily Mail about James Comey spotted at the New York Times building. We reported that this morning. We said that the New York Times spokesperson said that he did not visit the newsroom, and now we’re learning more from, I think, Maggie Haberman at The New York Times –
HENRY: Yeah, saying he didn’t visit the newsroom. A person close to him said that he and his wife went to a ceremony for CASA, at Covington & Burling, a major law firm, which is also in the New York Times building, and apparently that law firm was hosting some sort of charity event for abused kids. There’s some photos on Twitter of James Comey and his wife talking to those kids. Sounds like a wonderful cause. If that’s what he was doing, hats off to him.
DOOCY: Sure. And there was some speculation — well, maybe he went to The New York Times because it wasn’t so long ago he gave that Columbia professor his notes so that they could leak it to the Times. As it turns out, that is not the case. He was there —
HENRY: Great if he was doing charity work. It does not erase the fact there’s been all kinds of leaks at The New York Times. Period, end of story.
The evolution and complete breakdown of Fox & Friends‘ initial reporting highlights the complete lack of journalistic standards on Fox’s morning show. Earlier this month, the hosts cited a story relying solely on “one of the online blogs.” The Fox & Friends hosts have consistently shown that they will report on a story without looking for the facts or truth behind the narrative they want to push; no one should take them at their word.