Protesters interrupted former FBI Director James Comey’s remarks at Howard University’s convocation address on Friday, according to multiple reports.
In recent months, Comey has come under fire from both sides of the political aisle.
Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has frequently blamed Comey for her loss last November, arguing that it was his decision to re-open the bureau’s investigation into her use of a private email server as secretary of state that cost her the election.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump abruptly fired Comey in May, spurring allegations that he was trying to thwart the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s alleged efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
After Comey left the FBI, Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, D.C., appointed him as its convocation keynote speaker and its Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy for the 2017-18 academic year. The school said Comey elected to give his entire salary as chair to a Howard scholarship fund benefiting students who grew up in foster care.
What happened at the ceremony?
According to CNN, as Comey began his remarks at the convocation ceremony — which marks the formal beginning of their academic year — protesters in the back of the audience began to shout slogans including: “Get out James Comey, you aren’t our homey,” “No justice, no peace,” and “We shall not be moved.”
According to Politico, Comey told the protesters, “I hope you’ll stay to listen to what I have to say, and I just listened to you for five minutes,” but they continued to chant. He delivered his address as protesters continued to chant.
“I love the enthusiasm of the young folks, I just wish they would understand what a conversation is. A conversation is where you speak and I listen, and then I speak and you listen,” the former FBI director said. “And then we go back and forth, and back and forth. And at the end of a conversation, we’re both smarter. I am here at Howard to try to get smarter, to try to be useful.”
CNN reported that the protesters were students at the school.
What did Comey say?
According to Politico, Comey didn’t address Clinton, Trump, or Russia in his remarks. Instead, they centered on praise for Howard University and advice for its students. He called higher education an “island” offering students an opportunity to grow and learn.
“There is simply too little time taken in the rest of the real world to reflect, to think, to try to reshape the world and yourself,” Comey said. “The rest of the real world is a place where it’s hard sometimes to find people who will listen with an attitude that they might actually be convinced of something.
“Instead, what happens in the rest of the real world — and about four rows in this auditorium — is that people don’t listen at all, they just try to figure out what rebuttal they’re going to offer when you’re done speaking. Sometimes, they will pause briefly before telling you you’re an idiot.”
Ending to a standing ovation, Comey concluded with, “I look forward to adult conversations about what is right and what is true.”