The New York Times Thursday was forced to defend itself Thursday from accusations of spreading fake news after fired FBI Director James Comey slammed an article the so-called “paper of record” published in February — calling it “not true.”
At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Comey was asked about a story that featured in the Times on Valentine’s Day — “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence”.
The story opened:
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
However, Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) asked about the article at the hearing,
“Okay, so again,” Risch said. “So the American people can understand this, that report by the New York Times was not true, is that a fair statement?”
“In the main, it was not true,” Comey replied, before accusing the Times reporting team of not knowing what it was talking about. “Again, all of you know this, maybe the American people don’t. The challenge — I’m not picking on reporters about writing stories about classified information… [the challenge is] that people talking about it often don’t really now what’s going on and those of us who actually know what’s going on are not talking about it.”
“And we don’t call the press to say, hey, you got that thing wrong about this sensitive topic,” Comey said. “We just have to leave it there.”
Sen. Tom Cotton, (R-AR), followed up, asking Comey if the story was “almost entirely wrong.’ Comey said yes.
The Times immediately tweeted that it was “looking into” Comey’s statements.
We are looking into James Comey's statements, and we will report back with more information as soon as we can. https://t.co/v9OzWbbjUP
— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 8, 2017
Eventually the Times published a report and support of its article late Thursday, noting that Comey did not say what it was about the article that was false. However, it had some ideas what Comey may have disputed:
One possible area of dispute is the description of the Russians involved. Some law enforcement officials took issue with the Times account in the days after it was published, saying that the intelligence was still murky, and that the Russians who were in contact with Mr. Trump’s advisers did not meet the F.B.I.’s black-and-white standard of who can be considered an “intelligence officer.”
Another possibility, the Times said, was that he may have disagreed with the paper’s description of the evidence for the contacts with Russia — the Times said authorities had relied on “phone records and intercepted calls” to gain evidence.
However, the Times noted that the reporters’ sources had stood by their accounts, and also pointed to subsequent reporting that it said backed up some of the claims made in the Feb. 14 article.
Adam Shaw is a politics reporter for Breitbart News based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY