As Comey testifies, KC tunes in — and Olathe residents call out Brian Williams

Do people in Olathe care what James Comey has to say?

News anchor Brian Williams questioned whether people in Olathe would care what former FBI director James Comey had to say about his dealings with President Donald Trump. The Star went to Olathe to see whether or not people there had anything to sa
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News anchor Brian Williams questioned whether people in Olathe would care what former FBI director James Comey had to say about his dealings with President Donald Trump. The Star went to Olathe to see whether or not people there had anything to sa

Contrary to what Brian Williams might think, people in Olathe — and the rest of the Kansas City area — were indeed interested in James Comey’s Thursday morning testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

After the MSNBC anchor mentioned Olathe this morning, locals took to Twitter to let Williams know his reference to their hometown did not go unnoticed.

Williams had been talking about Preet Bharara’s entrance to the committee hearing room when he said the fired U.S. attorney may not have been recognizable to those in Olathe.

Here’s what people were saying on Twitter:

Meanwhile, on the streets of Olathe ...

Outside the Olathe Public Library with her son, Shanna Groves said she’s interested in Comey’s testimony.

“We want to know the involvement he had in the direction of the election,” Groves said.

She said it’s clear that Brian Williams has never been to Olathe.

“You’ve got quite a few educated people here in Olathe, because of industry,” she said. “... People who are coming in from even other parts of the United States really seem to be very educated and well-read. They question things.”

Standing in front of Warren Hannon Jeweler in downtown Olathe, Mary Lou Coyne said she had just been listening to the testimony on her drive.

“I am so disappointed with the whole administration that I am trying to ignore it,” she said.

People from Olathe care about Trump’s administration, she said.

“I think we are interested, but we are dumbfounded,” Coyne said. “We are appalled by what is happening, and it always comes up in conversation, but it is so distressing to know what that man is doing and what he is tweeting, that it’s beyond comprehension.”

Brian Williams (no relation to the news anchor) said he had “no idea” if people from Olathe cared about what Comey had to say. Williams said he would listen to “bits and pieces of it off of YouTube, but I wouldn’t sit and watch the whole thing.”

In the Crossroads area ...

Across the state line, about two dozen people crowded onto couches and eyed a projection of Comey’s testimony at Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters, 419 E. 18th St.

Sarah Shipley, 42, a local consultant, sat before a white Russian garnished with a Cheeto watching the former FBI director testify before the Senate committee.

Shipley’s drink, called a “covfefe,” was one of six options from a one-day menu prepared for the viewing party. The drink was named for a late-night May 30 tweet sent by President Donald Trump.

Shipley, who voted for Hillary Clinton but declared herself independent of party affiliation, said she was “excited to see some transparency from our government.” She said she wanted to be with other people to watch the “startling news.”

Black blinds covered the brick-walled upstairs viewing room to help the projector’s visibility, as a mostly quiet crowd of about 25 kept their eyes glued to the footage at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. A few customers’ eyes moved between their laptop screens and Comey’s face.

Sophia Reed, 25, a Kansas City artist who said she had moved back to town three days ago, said she wanted to hear “the truth.” Reed has painted politically inspired paintings since the election, including at least two referencing Syrian refugees whom Trump has attempted to block from entering the United States.

Downstairs, another three dozen people waited for drinks or sipped them at the bar and in scattered chairs. The wall-mounted TV also was showing Comey’s testimony, though the crowd seemed more interested in talking and working than the one upstairs.

Bo Nelson, 31, co-founder of Thou Mayest, said the event was born of a joke that “caught fire.” He said he hoped the viewing would help encourage engagement in the political process while giving people a place they felt comfortable watching.

As for the drinks, Nelson said the covfefe was initially meant to be served in a disposable cup with a hole in it, representing “leaks.” National news outlets have extensively reported news from within the White House attributed to anonymous sources, known as “leaks.”

Shipley, for her part, said her drink would be “much better without a Cheeto.”

... and in Westport

Patrick Keizer and Josiah Hunter sat outside the Broadway Cafe and wished that there was a James Comey watch party close by. Keizer said he hoped he witnessed a modern impeachment.

“Trump’s actions are deplorable and certainly beyond the scope of what should be presidential. It’s Nixonian, but the difference is that Nixon did it in the dark, and Trump does it on Twitter,” he laughed.

“There are actually bars in DC that will give you free drinks for every time that Trump sends out a live tweet during the Comey hearing.”

Both agreed on the importance of an FBI independent from Trump’s White House.

“The way he’s functioning is without an understanding of checks and balances,” Keizer said. “What I’m hoping for with the Comey hearing is that it’ll bring it to light. But here’s the thing, it’s already in the light! And you can’t convince his supporters that’s not the case.”

In reference to Trump’s wish for “honest loyalty” from Comey, Hunter said it was almost something straight out of “1984.”

“He literally said, in return, ‘I don’t want honesty, I want honest loyalty,’ which is the same as saying, ‘I want you to only tell me the truth if it helps me,’ ” Hunter said.

“That’s how he’s run his administration so far. It’s a very businessman way of doing things, just tell me the good news.”

Ultimately, Hunter thinks the hearing will unearth things that have already been speculated.

“We’re just going to hear what we want from James Comey, and in return, the people who can do something about it won’t do anything,” Hunter said.

“Which is why we’ll have watch parties where we can get drunk in our disappointment.”

Bartender John Hernandez opened the doors of the Blarney Stone bar in Westport an hour early because regulars expressed interest in watching Comey’s testimony. As Comey’s voice rang through the bar, Hernandez said the testimony could be a cause for Trump’s impeachment.

“I literally think Trump is losing it at the moment,” Hernandez said. “It’s at that point where you think, oh, man, he can’t do anything crazier. Then Trump is like, ‘I’ll show you all.’ 

Outside the Johnson County Courthouse

Sitting on a park bench in front of the Johnson County Courthouse, Chris Roden said he agreed with Williams’ assertion that people from Olathe weren’t interested in Comey.

“I think it’s just another way to portray Trump as a bad president,” Roden said.

Roden said he wasn’t planning on tuning into Comey’s testimony and pointed to continued negative media coverage of Trump as a reason he wouldn’t watch.

Cheryl Rencher pushed a stroller a few feet away and agreed that news coverage isn’t giving the full story, especially about Comey’s relationship with Trump.

“It’s just one of those things where I feel like there needs to be more information sent out to the public, instead of being mad at Trump for letting Comey go,” Rencher said. “All we hear is very negative stuff about Trump. Not saying I like him, but what does the world think about that?”

Still, she said she would watch Comey’s testimony when she got home. Williams was wrong to say people don’t care, Rencher said.

“I think we all in Olathe do care about it, because it affects all of us. The decision that they make — I definitely think we do care, no matter where we live.”

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