FBI’s Comey: Twitter fuels ‘monster of a bias’
FBI Director James Comey lamented on Wednesday the loss of public trust in government institutions like the one he runs and blamed “echo chambers” like Twitter for making his job more difficult.
“My children, again, discipline me not to go on Twitter because apparently people say bad things about me on Twitter. But things like Twitter offer us the opportunity only to encounter views consistent with our own, 24 hours a day,” Comey explained at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event Wednesday. “There’s an opportunity to feed that monster of a bias, that confirmation bias, all the time. So it accelerates that fractionalizing of our society, and it makes it much harder for people like me, like you, like the people in here, to speak reason to folks about our institutions.”
Comey, a Republican once appointed deputy attorney general by President George W. Bush, and the bureau he helms have been a regular target of GOP attacks over the FBI’s decision to recommend against charges following the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server as secretary of state. In a July press conference explaining his reasoning, Comey said Clinton and her colleagues were “extremely careless” in their handling of classified information but added that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring a case against the former secretary of state given the evidence uncovered.
While Comey mentioned the Clinton investigation only in passing, he did suggest it as an instance in which he has struggled to connect with the American public despite his repeated pledges to be transparent throughout.
“I’m not going to talk about the email investigation but I see some of the things people say about this thing, I’m like, ‘really?’ But it becomes truth to so many people. And I don’t know how to unring that bell,” he said. “So I do think it’s become enormously challenging for people in institutions that depend upon the trust of the citizens to recapture trust where it’s been lost, explain ourselves in a way that allows them to resist demagoguery or the Twitterverse.”
Comey said he takes personally the perception that the FBI has been biased in its work because of how vital the public’s trust is to what the bureau does.
“I don’t know what your parents taught you, mine always taught me ‘you can’t care what people think about you.’ I do,” he said. “I do because the institution I’m lucky enough to lead depends upon the American people believing that we are honest, competent and independent. So when we rise before a jury or we speak in Congress or we speak at a cookout, we are believed because they understand we are in the middle in American life. We don’t carry water for somebody else.”