WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Protesters at Howard University chanted and booed on Friday through James Comey’s first public address since he testified to Congress about his firing by U.S. President Donald Trump, challenging the former FBI director with a taste of the “real world” he was trying to describe to them.
Students protesting the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s treatment of black activists began chanting the civil rights song “We Shall Not Be Moved” as Comey stood at the podium, waiting out the demonstrators during a video about the historically black university in Washington, D.C.
The chants continued, intensifying and sometimes subsiding, as Comey began his address, which focused on how he believed college campuses were very much a part of what he called the “real world.”
Comey did not ignore the shouts.
“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,” he told them.
“Instead, what happens in most of the real world - and about four rows in this auditorium - is that people don’t listen at all.”
The protesters included HUResist, a Howard student social justice group that criticized Comey’s FBI for its treatment of Black Lives Matter activists.
“Get out James Comey, you ain’t my homie!” students chanted before his address.
“We will not let the voice and opinions of white supremacy live on this campus,” HUResist said on Twitter.
Howard University officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Comey became a lightning rod for criticism from Democrats when he disclosed shortly before the November presidential election a new trove of emails involving the party’s candidate, Hillary Clinton. Many, including Clinton, said they believed this contributed to her loss to Republican Trump.
In June congressional testimony, Comey accused the president of firing him in May to undermine the FBI’s investigation of possible collusion by Trump’s campaign with Russia to influence the election.
At Howard, Comey soldiered on with comments about a “real world” that may have been veiled criticism of Trump, who touts the virtues of winning, but also were directed at the fury in front of him.
“They aren’t looking to actually learn anything about you or about what you think,” he said. “It’s a place where people take sides rather than trying to understand - are they still on the right side? They care mostly about their side winning.”
Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn