The New York Times is “looking into” whether one of its big Russia scoops is actually true, after former FBI Director James Comey disputed the report in Thursday testimony before Congress.
The paper of record reported Feb. 14 that U.S. intelligence officials had intercepted repeated communications between the Trump campaign and senior Russian intelligence officials in the year leading up to the election. The news firmly planted the as yet totally unsubstantiated narrative that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to sway the election in his favor.
But Comey characterized the report as almost entirely false Thursday, and The New York Times is now reviewing the report in light of his statements. “We are looking into James Comey’s statements, and we will report back with more information as soon as we can,” TheNYT tweeted following the hearing, after prominent journalists highlighted Comey’s statement.
“In the main, it was not true,” Comey testified Thursday. He added that when the news broke, he was so troubled that he actually double checked with the intelligence community to make sure he wasn’t missing something.
Asked again about the story later in the hearing, Comey reiterated that it was unfounded.
“Would it be fair to characterize that story as almost entirely wrong?” Republican Sen. Tom Cotton asked.
“Yes,” Comey replied.
TheNYT sourced the report to four “former and current officials,” who were likely politically motivated, or as Comey suggested in the hearing may not have had a proper understanding of the “facts” they were dishing out to the paper.
“The challenge — and I’m not picking on reporters about writing stories about classified information — is the people talking about it often don’t really know what’s going on,” Comey said. “And those of us that know what’s going on aren’t talking about it. And we don’t call the press to say, ‘hey, you got that thing wrong about that sensitive topic.’ We just have to leave it there.”
Update: The New York Times released a fresh statement and published an article saying the paper stands by its story and that a review found “no evidence” the reporting was inaccurate. The paper concedes the sources on which the story is based could not be reached in the examination process, but says reports in other outlets (also based on anonymous sources) have confirmed their reporting. The paper also speculates Comey was taking issue with the definition of “Russian intelligence official” and notes he did not say “exactly” what was wrong with the story.
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