On Monday morning, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough turned the last 14 minutes of Morning Joe into a promotional segment for Showtime’s newest political drama, The Comey Rule, which is based on disgraced former FBI Director James Comey’s autobiography, A Higher Loyalty. Leftist actor Jeff Daniels, who stars as Comey in the limited series, was more than happy to talk with Scarborough and Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire about the heavily altered historical background of the show, knowing there was no chance that they would question the validity of the events recounted in Comey’s book.
Daniels proceeded to create a laughable portrayal of Comey that only the most ill-informed Americans would buy:
“I found that he's a guy that believes in the rule of law. He looks at that as something bigger than he is. Same thing with the institution, such as the FBI. He believes in protecting the integrity of the FBI. And those things matter to him like people's religion matters to them. And their God matters to them. There's a sacredness to it. When he got into these situations that secretary Clinton's use of the emails threw him into, that the mistake where they missed those 30,000 and 300,000 emails in October leading up to the election, that he now had to be thrust into, he relied on those things that he believed in. And none of those things are political. They’re apolitical. That’s what I found in this guy, was a guy that was trying to do the right thing, as if that could save the integrity of the FBI.”
The folks at Morning Joe, who may as well have been born yesterday, didn’t question any of it, despite the fact that Daniels unintentionally revealed later in the interview that he was perhaps not too knowledgeable about the man he portrays in the show: “I emailed Jim…I said if you’re in New York, I’d love to talk to you. And he emailed back, he was very nice, but it didn’t happen…And Billy Ray, the writer/director was far more knowledgeable about Comey.” Apparently, Daniels’ knowledge of Comey is based on his own audiobook, Billy Ray’s best recollection, and clips from The Late Show he found on YouTube.
The Dumb and Dumber star concluded the interview by insulting American voters:
“Regardless, then you’ve got the American electorate, who is asleep at the wheel. This is October 2016. ‘Well, she’s probably guilty. They did investigate her. Meanwhile, Trump’s going to lower my taxes, and you know, he’s going to have ten people around him that are going to stop him from doing something stupid or crazy.’”
It’s hard to tell if he’s talking about the real 2016 election, or a made-up variant that’s as fictional as The Comey Rule. Unfortunately for MSNBC viewers, Scarborough and company had no intention of enlightening us any further.
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Read the full transcript here:
JOE SCARBOROUGH: I want to just start by talking about James Comey and what you -- what you learned about Comey as you dug into this. Obviously, he wrote the book. He wrote the history that it's based on. But for a lot of people, James Comey reminds me of the Churchill quote that, you know, this guy is a riddle wrapped inside of a mystery inside an enigma. Who is James Comey, this character that has shaped so much of our recent history?
JEFF DANIELS [ACTOR, THE COMEY RULE]: I found that he's a guy that believes in the rule of law. He looks at that as something bigger than he is. Same thing with the institution, such as the FBI. He believes in protecting the integrity of the FBI. And those things matter to him like people's religion matters to them. And their God matters to them. There's a sacredness to it. When he got into these situations that secretary Clinton's use of the emails threw him into, that the mistake where they missed those 30,000 and 300,000 emails in October leading up to the election, that he now had to be thrust into, he relied on those things that he believed in. And none of those things are political. They're apolitical. That's what I found in this guy, was a guy that was trying to do the right thing, as if that could save him or save the integrity of the FBI. And led the way into people that were apolitical that came after him. And that's what I found was what apolitical looks like, what apolitical thinks like, and why Jim did what he did, knowing what he knew then.
SCARBOROUGH: Was it possible that a little more cynicism, a little more political insight may have guided him through one of the most difficult times in recent American political history?
DANIELS: Yes. And we go through that in last night's episode. And it's -- but it's political. And I think he had to -- his north star had to be the things I just mentioned. And none of those are political. And when the politics come into it from the left or from the right, it's almost like he had to push it away. Rightly or wrongly, politically. And stay true to what he believed were the important things, which, in this case, was the rule of law. You know, I look back to Barry Goldwater and, Joe, you know far better than I, but the Republicans hung on for a long time in Watergate. Deny, deny, deflect, dismiss, and then when Nixon was breaking the rule of law, Goldwater said, let's go, and he marched the senate Republicans up to the White House and he said, Mr. President, you have to resign. We don't have those Republicans anymore. And Jim was up against that. So when he reopened the investigation, by protocol, by sending the letter to the gang of eight, they're not supposed to leak it for political purposes. He knew they would because that's who we have now. And they did. But Jim tried to do the right thing. And that's what I keep falling back on. This series is real good if you just hit pause a bunch of times and go, what would you do, given what you know now based on what Jim said, it's not so easy.
SCARBOROUGH: So, Jeff, that scene is so evocative of other moments where you’ve got guys from another era, unaware that a new reality is upon them. Whether it's guys in Detroit in the early 1980s, don't understand that their world is about to change radically, or in other countries like Masha Gessen in Surviving Autocracy says one of the mistakes we make in news is we're trying to apply the old news of America to a new reality of an autocratic leader. And that looked, in that scene, and I'd love for you to talk about it, but that looked like James Comey and everybody else in that room trying to apply the old rules of Madisonian democracy to a very new harsh reality.
DANIELS: Everybody respected the rule of law. Everybody respected those things that made America and make America the free country that it is. Until now. And it's been painfully obvious from before 2016, but certainly in the four years previous. And look at what happened yesterday, you know? That's what autocrats do. And what I find even worse than Trump is the complicity of those in congress, in the senate, and I see a Republican Party that is -- that is no longer the Republican Party that my dad belonged to. It's Trump's Republican Party. And they are clinging to that like it's the Titanic heading to the iceberg and it's their last stand. It's the last stand of the Republican Party. And a lot of the people in this country, and I live around a bunch of them, think that that party still exists. And I think days like yesterday with the tax returns starting to come out, we're starting to see a president who is doing everything he possibly can, including lying about the pandemic, to stay out of jail. That's who you're voting for, is a president who is heading to prison. And if I'm wrong, I guess we're going to find out, but it's so obvious. If the Trump administration were a movie, a script, they would kick it back because the villain is too obvious. He's not transparent enough. And you just see this stacking and stacking as we head into November 3rd as the reality of, guys, the iceberg is -- we can see the iceberg now. What are you waiting for? And what they are waiting for is -- I don't know. I just don't know.
SCARBOROUGH: [Laughs] Yeah. Yeah, none of us do. Jonathan?
JONATHAN LEMIRE: Hey, Jeff, Jonathan Lemire. A lot of angry MSNBC viewers watching this would probably like to evoke the title of one of your movies Dumb and Dumber when it comes to James Comey and President Trump. As you portray this role, director Comey, my questions to you are, did you speak to Comey? Did you try to learn from him while preparing this? Did you try to study him in that way? And also, how do you perceive him now? Someone who, as you say, thought he was doing the right thing. But is someone who, frankly, is so disliked by both sides of the political party. Trump Republicans feel like that he was not sufficiently loyal to the president and, of course, Democrats feel that by prioritizing the secretary Clinton investigation and reviving it just days before the 2016 election, he may have played a role in electing Donald Trump.
DANIELS: Yeah, I certainly think he had an impact on the election. Well, first of all, I went to the book. I went to the audio book. You hear Jim read it. YouTube is full of videos of Jim. Colbert show, you know, you can see Comey's sense of humor. As an actor playing any role, living or dead, fictional, I had plenty going in. I emailed Jim. I was finishing To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway. I said if you're in New York, I'd love to talk to you. And he emailed back, he was very nice, but it didn't happen, and I took that to, don't impose on the guy.
Rightly or wrongly, he's been vilified. And I'm not going to go down to his house and watch him eat dinner. I got enough. And Billy Ray, the writer/director was far more knowledgeable about Comey. So I had -- I was okay. He led the -- he opened the door for the apolitical public servants that came after him. And I could get my timeline wrong, but Sally Yates may have been even before Comey when she was fired and led before congress and lit it up. Jim Comey was that apolitical public servant who was simply trying to do his job on the side of what was right. That opened the door for people like Fiona Hill, Marie Yovanovitch, William Taylor, Colonel Vindman and others. That's the picture of apolitical public servants trying to do their job in Trump's administration. There were other things that impacted the election, aside from Comey, not standing in front of a podium and announcing like a showboat that he was going to reopen the investigation into Hillary's emails in October. He didn't do that. He sent the letter to the gang of eight and Jason Chaffetz leaked it. Because two days later, Giuliani was going to leak it. It was coming out. And it was gonna- it reflected on the integrity of the FBI no matter what he did. The media jumped on it. As you guys know, that's a red meat story. That's eyeballs and ratings. That happened. What didn't happen was an even better story, and that story is Hillary is guilty and they found something. She's criminal, three days before the election. That didn't happen. So while the media covered it, it was more like a retraction. Regardless, then you've got the American electorate, who is asleep at the wheel. This is October 2016. Well, she's probably guilty. They did investigate her. Meanwhile, Trump's going to lower my taxes, and, you know, he's going to have ten people around him that are going to stop him from doing something stupid or crazy.