One of the emerging right-wing talking points justifying Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey is that Democrats, angry over Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, had loudly called for his firing themselves. This was a line of attack Trump himself took on Twitter Wednesday, and it’s since been repeated by his surrogates.
The Democrats have said some of the worst things about James Comey, including the fact that he should be fired, but now they play so sad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2017
The right-wing media snapped up the idea: For example, two pieces out Wednesday from the Daily Caller and Laura Ingraham’s LifeZette attempt to prove that it's really Democrats who wanted Comey canned. “President Trump did exactly what Democratic party leaders wanted when he fired former FBI Director James Comey Tuesday,” the Caller’s Alex Pfeiffer wrote. “Sure, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and allies slammed Trump for the decision, but they previously stated they had no confidence in Comey’s leadership.” The headline of the LifeZette piece by Jim Stinson is “Democrats Wanted Comey Fired—Until Tuesday.”
Interestingly, neither of these articles lists a single prominent Democrat—not one—who actually called for President Obama or President Trump to fire Comey.
Instead, what they offer are lists of Democrats who criticized Comey over the past year. There's a half-handful of Democrats who have previously said that Comey should resign, which includes Rep. Steve Cohen, who said so in a piece for the Hill in November, and Sen. Harry Reid, who said the same in December.*
Others mentioned, like Sen. Chuck Schumer, Rep. Maxine Waters, and Rep. Hank Johnson, are Democrats who have previously been quoted as saying they had lost confidence in Comey. For example, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told CNN in November that Comey might not be “in the right job.” “I think that we have to just get through this election and just see what the casualties are along the way,” she said.
Neither article offers a single example of a Democrat publicly demanding that Comey be forcibly removed from his post, as he was Tuesday.
There are several steps between saying you no longer have confidence in the FBI director and asserting that he ought to be dismissed unceremoniously in the middle of an FBI investigation pertaining to the man who dismissed him. Of course, none of this is of any consequence to the right-wing press, or to Trump’s surrogates. It’s a claim that will register as entirely believable to those who haven’t been paying attention, which is the point.
*Correction May 10, 2017: This article originally misstated that Steve Cohen is a senator. He is a congressman.