After Press Ran Wild With First FBI Letter, Comey Announces No Change Following Review
FBI Director James Comey informed Congress that upon review of emails related to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server, the FBI has “not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July ”that no criminal charges are appropriate. The FBI’s conclusion of the email review comes after the media breathlessly hyped extensive, doomsday-like coverage about the email investigation.
Comey notified Congress on November 6 that the FBI has “reviewed all of the communications that were to or from Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State,” and that the review of related emails “obtained in connection with an unrelated criminal investigation” has led to no changes in the FBI’s “conclusions that we expressed in July,” when the FBI found that “no charges are appropriate in this case.” NBC’s Pete Williams reported that “nearly all the documents … were duplicates that the FBI had already seen in its investigation of the Clinton email server or were personal emails that had no bearing on the question of classification.”
When Comey first informed Congress on October 28 that the FBI planned to examine new evidence related to Clinton’s email server, media outlets irresponsibly ran with Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-UT) misleading claim that the FBI had “reopened” its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server. However, as the facts started to trickle in, outlets scrambled to walk back their headlines to more accurately portray the development. Cable news pundits hyped the news as “damaging” and called it “a dramatic new twist” and “an exclamation point on the end of a horrible week for Clinton and the Democrats.”
Though Comey’s letter received harsh criticism from across the political spectrum, it has generated a flood of coverage over the past nine days. Five of the nation’s top national newspapers national newspapers produced 100 news articles that mentioned the Clinton email story in a week, 46 of which were placed on their front pages; the same newspapers published only 49 articles total with “Trump” in the headline that didn’t mention the story over the same period. The Clinton email story dominated cable airwaves for several days following Comey’s initial letter, as pundits churned out mountains of speculative coverage hyping the political implications of an otherwise vague update from the FBI.
The FBI update was followed by a “dangerous” and “unprecedented” flow of leaks from the FBI regarding the investigations related to Clinton, leading to false, anonymously sourced claims of pending indictments and calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor.
With the election only days away, journalists owe it to their readers and viewers to give Comey’s letter again clearing Clinton and her staff as much coverage as they gave his initial letter.