FBI Director James Comey has canceled his highly-anticipated and controversial interview at the SXSW Conference this year, citing schedule conflicts that will keep him in Washington, D.C.
A statement put out by SXSW on Tuesday morning reported that FBI General Counsel James Baker will take his place instead at the Monday session. Baker will have a conversation with Jeffrey Herbst of Newseum.
"While Director Comey is now unable to attend, we're still really excited that this important conversation will take place,” said Newseum CEO Jeffrey Herbst in a written statement.
Comey’s appearance at SXSW was a bold move for the FBI Director.
Comey was heavily criticized -- particularly by Democrats -- for his decision to announce a second investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails right before the November election.
Some believe that decision played a key role in Republican candidate Donald Trump’s eventual victory. For instance, former President Bill Clinton cast some of the blame for her loss on Comey.
When SXSW first announced the decision to bring Comey to SXSW for an on-stage interview in late January it provoked a strong reaction on social media. There were calls to protest his interview or boycott all of SXSW. But others said they were eager to hear Comey explain himself.
James Comey is going to do an interview at #sxsw WHOMEVER IS THE INTERVIEWER, FOR THE LOVE OF SANITY, DO EXTENSIVE RESEARCH and destroy him.— FriendFilms (@FriendFilms) January 27, 2017
Not everyone was anti-Comey:
It wasn’t immediately clear what, exactly, was keeping Comey in Washington, D.C. on Monday. SXSW spokesman Brett Cannon said he wasn’t told any specifics about these scheduling conflicts.
An FBI spokeswoman said on Tuesday that she could not comment on the specifics of Comey’s schedule.
Baker is expected to tackle many of the same topics Comey would have discussed, such as the intersection of national security and technology.
The session with Baker and Herbst is set for Monday at 5 p.m.