Fox & Friends was forced to issue a correction to its July 10 report, during which the hosts claimed that former FBI Director James Comey leaked top secret information to The New York Times. Co-host Steve Doocy admitted that they were “mistaken” when they reported that “Comey leaked memos containing top secret information.” As The Washington Post noted, “Comey made clear that the memo he gave to his friend to leak … was not one that contained classified material.” Additionally, Politico pointed out that a friend who acted as an intermediary between Comey and the media said that the memo in question was not classified. From the July 11 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Meanwhile, yesterday on this program, we aired and tweeted a story saying former FBI Director James Comey leaked memos containing top secret information. We were mistaken in that. According to a report, half of the memos contained information classified at the secret or confidential level, not top secret. And the markings of the government documents in which Mr. Comey leaked are, at this point, unclear. Just wanted to straighten that out.
Despite the correction, Fox & Friends later hosted Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow, a frequent Fox guest, who continued to claim that Comey illegally leaked information. Sekulow speculated, contrary to reports and to Comey’s own account, that the memo shared with the Times “may well have been classified.” Sekulow also falsely claimed that it was illegal for Comey to share even unclassified memos because “it was covered by executive privilege at a minimum.” As legal expert Steve Vladeck explained, “It is not a ‘violation’ of executive privilege to voluntarily disclose materials that could be protected by the privilege … [n]or is such a voluntary disclosure illegal.”
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): First off, the story in The Hill that came out a couple of days ago that talked about JamesComey, in his nine meetings with the president, seven of those meetings he took notes on. It is said in this story that four of the seven contained some type of classified information, some type of classification.
JAY SEKULOW: Right.
KILMEADE: What does this mean to you?
SEKULOW: It means that James Comey was leaking -- potentially leaking classified information. But we know he was leaking information, and it may well have been classified. Look, I mean, just think about for a moment here what has happened. James Comey had conversations with the president of the United States. He wrote those conversations or put them into a memo that he typed in his government car on his government computer, put them in his government desk, and then, when he got fired, he releases them to a friend of his who then releases them to The New York Times. This was not just conversations extending pleasantries, exchanging pleasantries. This was a conversation with the president of the United States. The classified information situation increases the level one more time. But look, at a minimum -- at a minimum -- he gave out information about a conversation with the president of the United States that violates section 641 of the criminal code.
AINSELY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Jay, will we ever find out if any of the information that he leaked to his friend, if that information was classified?
SEKULOW: Yeah, I think we're going to because ultimately this information has been turned over to the special counsel. I'm sure the committees, the Senate and House committees, are going to ask for it. If you look at the number percentages, the percentages are there that something was classified. But I want to take a step back again, Ainsley. This was a conversation with the president of the United States. It was covered by executive privilege at a minimum and James Comey ignored that when he, illegally, and I'll underscore that again, distributed that information for one purpose only: to get a special prosecutor. He gets a special prosecutor based on illegally leaked information. What does that tell you about the whole basis for this special counsel?
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Well there you go about that. Mr. Comey's -- the fellow who leaked to The New York Times, Columbia University law professor Daniel Richman -- he says that no memos were given to the press, no memos were classified at the time he received them. I think he says they weren't given because I believe he read them to them over the telephone.
SEKULOW: Correct. Right.
DOOCY: He also says this was not classified at the time and remains unclassified.
SEKULOW: Well he doesn’t -- how does this law professor know that, by the way?