In a brief interview on Tuesday, Mr. Ray addressed the company’s decision to make the mini-series available weeks after Election Day, Nov. 3. “I don’t see how it could have been economically motivated,” he said. “They never told me why.”
“A Higher Loyalty” was an instant blockbuster upon its publication in April 2018, selling 600,000 copies in all formats its first week. In its pages Mr. Comey likens Mr. Trump to a crime boss and calls him “unethical, and untethered to truth.” Mr. Trump attacked the book and its author, calling him an “untruthful slime ball” in a tweet.
At the time of his firing three years ago, Mr. Comey was the top official leading a criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers had colluded with the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.
Simon & Schuster, a publishing house owned by ViacomCBS, released Mr. Comey’s book; it is also the publisher of “The Room Where It Happened,” a memoir by Mr. Trump’s former national security head John Bolton that came out on Tuesday. In March, ViacomCBS put Simon & Schuster up for sale.
CBS was among the hundreds of organizations and people that have been the target of attacks by Mr. Trump during his term in office. In a 2018 tweet, the president included CBS reporters among the “fakers” who have “done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!”
Previous attempts by Hollywood to build shows around political figures have not gone according to plan. In 2013, NBC scrapped a mini-series that would have starred Diane Lane as Hillary Clinton before it was shot. More recently, the third season of Ryan Murphy’s FX series, “American Crime Story: Impeachment” — with a focus on former President Bill Clinton, and with Monica Lewinsky as a producer — was scheduled to make its debut on Sept. 27. FX ended up postponing the release until after the election, citing Mr. Murphy’s busy schedule.
In his email to the cast of “The Comey Rule,” Mr. Ray wrote that he was puzzled by ViacomCBS’s decision to wait until after the election.
“Why?” he wrote. “I don’t know. The health of a media company depends on attracting audiences — and our movie, aired in August of an election year, would have been very big news. Can you imagine the billboards? Comey Vs. Trump! A cast loaded with Emmy winners! Yet here we are. I am deeply sorry that I didn’t win this one.”