Key Twitter Moments from #ComeyDay
What happened yesterday? Depending on where you sit it was either a day where the President of the United States was called a liar by someone so credible that no one challenged his story or his honesty. If you happen to be a fan of Donald Trump you’re more inclined to agree with this surprisingly belated tweet, posted the morning after, at the crack of dawn:
Like any cinematic event (see photo above), there were spoilers. The night before the hearing, former FBI Director James Comey agreed to release his opening statement, which confirmed much of what has already been reported by elite national media. Recognizing that the audience had been spoiled, Comey set aside his written statement and spoke without notes saying that President Trump had “defamed” the FBI and himself saying “those were lies, plain and simple” (full video via C-SPAN here).
During the hearing, Comey confirmed he passed along recollections of a specific meeting with President Trump to a friend to give to the press in the hopes that it would prompt the appointment of a special counsel. Whether or not that is considered a leak of privileged conversation with the President of the United States or something amounting to a diary entry, again, depends upon where you sit politically.
Comey got what he wanted and, perhaps, a bit more. Robert Mueller, another former head of the FBI was appointed on May 17. Comey went out of his way, at several points during the hearing, to praise his former colleague and to restrain himself from characterizing Trump’s actions obstruction of justice, leaving that to Mueller’s investigation.
Conversation on Twitter
While the focus was Capitol Hill, the conversation was intense on Twitter. Over the two-day period from June 7 (when Comey’s opening statement was released) to June 8 (the day of the hearing), there were 4.2 million posts in the United States that included the dominant word of the day, “Comey”, or one of the following Twitter hashtags:
- #ComeyDay — over 610k posts
- #Comey — over 270k posts
- #ComeyHearing — over 200k posts
- #ComeyTestimony — over 200k posts
- #JamesComey — over 68k posts
We also included #ComeyOpeningStatement and #ComeyTestamony (sic) which showed up in significantly fewer posts but were in many of our feeds along the way.
The most popular of the hashtags was #ComeyDay, which not only saved a few characters of the 140 allotted to Twitter users but reflected the kind of #ThisTown holiday that such hearings could engender. It wasn’t just a hearing, it was an event. Local D.C. bars opened early to hold watch parties. Many of us in the DMV (District, Maryland, Virginia) set aside whatever else was on our agenda that day to watch and join the conversation on Twitter.
Top Tweets: Within this context, the top retweeted post was from Jason Miller, an author and frequent critic of President Trump, who summed up the hearing before it happened with this tweet:
Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters has the next most-retweeted post, reacting to a particular portion of Comey’s written opening statement.
The most-retweeted post of the hearing went to Rep. Adam Schiff, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, also investigating Trump and Russia.
A Missed Baker Moment
This wasn’t just a big day for James Comey, it was a potentially career-defining moment for the U.S. Senators who questioned him. The incentive for Democrats was obvious — a chance to score points with the base — but Republicans had opportunities as well. Former GOP Senator Howard Baker’s name resonates through the ages because of this non-partisan moment during the Watergate hearings.
Rubio and McCain: “Liddle” Marco Rubio and ”Not a War Hero” John McCain had personal incentives to choose this moment to become today’s Howard Baker. But Rubio ended up being perceived a Trump defender (specifically, here) and McCain confused Comey with his questions, becoming the top viral moment, unintentionally.
It is notable that largest audience from Rubio’s posts on #ComeyDay was his defense of his own line of questioning. The following tweet had 3.4 million potential impressions on Twitter and even more by those who shared it on different platforms and, for which (sadly), we do not have data.
McCain, who has 2.3 million followers reached a potential Twitter audience of 6.7 million with this tweet (liked 873 times, retweeted 136 times and @ replied to 513 times) inviting viewers to watch him question Comey.
Unfortunately, many did, which prompted this classic McCain self-deprecating joke was liked almost 3,000 times, retweeted 823 times, replied to 4,790 times, and had a potential Twitter audience of 6.1 million users (again without counting how many times it was shared off the platform).
Perhaps due to their performances, and that the hearing was held during the day and not in prime time like presidential debates, neither Rubio (+7,050) nor McCain (+1,441) gained a significant number of followers from June 7 to June 8. Both accounts gained less than 1% in terms of new followers.
Mark Warner: Democratic Senator Mark Warner had a better day on Twitter the day before the Comey hearing, when he questioned the nation’s intelligence chiefs about the Russian investigation. Warner’s Twitter account grew by 2,603 followers, about a 2% increase over the two-day period.
This tweet had 8.1 million potential impressions, was “liked” 7,183 times, retweeted 3,115 times and replied to 810 times.
At the Comey hearing, with signficantly more people watching, Warner earned less engagement from a smaller potential audience (3.1 million Twitter users) for this post:
Warner missed a potentially buzzier opportunity, and he seemingly knew it at the time (Warner’s full video). Here’s the key exchange:
Warner: What was it about that meeting that made you think you needed to put down a written record?
Comey: A combination of things … the circumstances, the subject matter, and the person I was interacting with … I was honestly concerned that he would lie about the nature of our meeting…
Warner: I think that’s a very important statement you just made.
Not, apparently, enough to tweet about it.
If you enjoyed this article, click the💚 below so other people will see this here on Medium. Follow me on Twitter @michaelcohen. You can follow our research on this website or on Twitter @PEORIAProject, which is funded by a generous grant from Mark R. Shenkman. To learn more about the Graduate School of Political Management visit our website or follow us on Twitter @GSPMgwu.