The news media hit the panic button Tuesday night after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.
Media coverage Tuesday night portrayed Trump as a third-world dictator, and even suggested that the president had triggered a constitutional crisis.
“This is the kind of thing that goes on in non-democracies, that when there is an investigation that reaches near the president of the United States, or the leader of a non-democracy, they fire the people who are in charge of the investigation,” CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin claimed, going on to compare Trump to Richard Nixon.
— CNN (@CNN) May 9, 2017
CNN’s Brian Stelter described Toobin’s comments as “sounding the alarm” in his media newsletter Tuesday night.
McClatchy DC’s coverage included the headline, “Donald Trump takes a dictator’s stand against inquiry.”
“Just how far will this president go as investigations into his campaign and its alleged ties to Russia intensify, and perhaps tighten around his inner circle, if not around Trump himself?” asked the article, which read like an editorial but was classified as a news article.
Editor at The Atlantic David Frum called Comey’s firing “a coup against the FBI.” The accusation was quickly shared thousands of times across Twitter.
Atlantic staff writer McKay Coppins struck a similar tone. “This is one of those stories where it’s worth thinking about how it would be covered if it were happening in, like, Nicaragua,” Coppins wrote.
GQ’s Keith Olbermann, formerly of MSNBC, called the president a “MOTHERFUCKING TRAITOR.”
The New York Daily News called the firing a “coup” on its front page.
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) May 10, 2017
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes closed his show by asking: “If we’re in a constitutional crisis, what is the proper response?”
Brendan Nyhan of the New York Times similarly suggested that the president had caused a constitutional crisis.
Hayes and Nyhan are flat wrong to even raise the question, according to George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr.
“No, firing Comey isn’t a ‘constitutional crisis,'” Kerr said. A [president] can fire the FBI Director: It’s how the system works.”
Republican Sen. John McCain, a noted Trump opponent, said Trump acted within his legal authority in firing Comey.
“I regret that that took place. The president does have that authority, so I respect that,” McCain told NBC News. The experienced senator’s reasoned tone made for a stark contrast with the hysterical media coverage of the firing. McCain, it’s worth noting, has been tough on both Russian and Trump, and was the one who provided Comey with a controversial dossier alleging ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia.