Former FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress on Thursday, which the president of the United States saw as a “total and complete vindication.”
Donald Trump also tweeted about the “great reporting” by Fox News’ morning show “and so many others.”
Great reporting by @foxandfriends and so many others. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2017
Yet for most news outlets, the hearing was a disaster for the White House, as demonstrated by the brutal headlines on the front pages of so many local and national newspapers on Friday morning.
Trump reportedly “dipped in and out of the small dining room off the Oval Office” to watch about 45 minutes of Comey’s testimony, along with his personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz. He insisted to his legal team, according to the New York Times, “I was right.”
The New York tabloids (including The New York Post, which Trump reportedly used to read first to start the day) are not always on the same page, but Friday morning they struck very similar notes about the testimony, even if the Post did include more of the Trump camp’s spin:
In a word….. pic.twitter.com/l8Kc0iBI1G
— Michael Tackett (@tackettdc) June 9, 2017
North Carolina readers got a direct headline from The Charlotte Observer on their front porches Friday morning.
The Denver Post also cut to the chase, with clear quotes serving as subheads.
The Des Moines Register broke out another banner headline:
Cincinnati readers focused on Comey’s contention that Trump lied “plain and simple.”
The New York Times led with a list of quotes from Comey’s testimony, letting his words speak for themselves:
The Arizona Daily Star put the focus on Trump, with his contention that his White House was “under siege” in speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition, paired with the Comey testimony.
The Philadelphia Inquirer played up the contrast between Trump’s statements and Comey’s testimony:
The Washington Post led with two quotes: from Comey and also from Trump’s lawyer. The headline: “Comey says Trump lied about him, FBI.”
Birmingham, Alabama’s paper led with Comey’s public hope that his conversations with Trump in the Oval Office were taped:
Pittsburgh’s paper devoted its front page to the hearing — none of Paris’ newspapers tracked by the Newseum devoted front page space to Comey, however.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch gave the hearing banner coverage:
Maine’s largest news team had a bullish, unique take on the hearing:
Mar-a-Lago’s local paper, the Palm Beach Post, did not deliver good news to the president’s favorite resort.
The divergent media realities that help foment the political schisms that prevent many Americans from being able to have even basic conversations about public policy or politics were on clear display if readers put down their newspapers and picked up their television remotes for some channel surfing. MSNBC watchers saw a different hearing than Fox News watchers because of the way the same video feeds were framed.
A helpful graphic from the Washington Post tracked every single chyron displayed by the three cable news networks as they showed the live feed of Comey’s testimony.
At 12:33 p.m. for example, as the hearing was heading into the home stretch, here’s how the three channels showed at the bottoms of their screens:
- COMEY: “SURE” SPECIAL COUNSEL IS LOOKING INTO WHETHER TRUMP OBSTRUCTED JUSTICE
- COMEY: “I TAKE THE PRESIDENT’S WORDS, I KNOW I WAS FIRED BECAUSE OF SOMETHING ABOUT THE WAY I WAS CONDUCTING THE RUSSIA PROBE”
- COMEY: THE FBI HAD A CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION INTO CLINTON EMAIL MATTER
Scrolling through the three feeds gives a sense of how each channel played to different audiences, with Fox News’ chyrons regularly downplaying or ignoring damaging quotes or developments, and the other two networks conveying the proceedings with much more seriousness.
The next day, Trump’s favorite morning show, Fox & Friends, downplayed the damage Comey’s testimony did to the president and signaled they’re eager to move on from the story.
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) June 9, 2017
While Trump framed Comey’s testimony as a big win, there are indications that privately, at least, Republicans weren’t so sure. Conservative commentator Bill Kristol talked to congressional Republicans and said they are not just worried, but “terrified,” while Politico talked to several congressional Republicans who said they were “absolutely shocked at how poorly yesterday went for the president.”