James Comey never wanted to write a book. The thought of signing onto that kind of "ego deal" seemed unbearable.
"And then I got fired," Comey told nearly 2,000 supporters in Miami on Wednesday, where the former FBI director visited to promote the book he’d eventually write. "You've heard that part."
Comey, famously fired by President Donald Trump last year while investigating possible ties between then-candidate Trump's associates and the Russian government, told a packed auditorium inside the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts that his goal in writing the book — part memoir, part leadership guide — was to help push forward a values-based conversation and to help start a dialogue about the fundamental role of values in American democracy.
In the past year, Comey has been thrust into the political spotlight, becoming a lightning rod of sorts for Americans on both sides of the aisle.
His handling of Hillary Clinton's emails is still criticized by her supporters, and his potshots at President Trump certainly do him no favors with that base of voters.
But don’t expect to see any "Vote Comey" signs any time soon.
He told the audience he’d make a "crappy candidate" because he couldn’t embellish reality the way a good candidate is expected to do, or ask for money.
"I hate the idea of asking people for money," he told a crowd of people with his new book in their laps.
Speaking intimately about his inspirations and tribulations, Comey recounted experiences that molded him as a leader and a man, and some that now embarrass him, including his handling of the FBI's probe into Clinton’s use of a private email server.
He also spoke critically about President Trump's brand of leadership, saying he doesn't believe Trump has a moral core or an ethical compass.
Outside, about a dozen protesters — including members of the Miami Proud Boys organization — heckled audience members as they entered the building, yelling that Comey should be jailed and that Clinton should be, too.
"I am very worried that we hate so quickly," Comey said.
"I don’t hate Donald Trump. I don't hate people that voted for Donald Trump."
Despite his reservations about stepping into the political fray, Comey was not reticent in criticizing the National Rifle Association, a group that he said "sells fear" to gun owners.
Looking back to his senior year in high school, when a "serial rapist and robber" kicked in his door apparently looking for his sister and then held him and his brother at gunpoint, Comey said he would support "reasonable restrictions" to the Second Amendment, although he did not elaborate on any specific ideas.
Comey criticized the notion that altering gun laws is a "slippery slope."
"It's not a slippery slope, it's a concrete set of stairs" built by America's founders, he said. "Let’s have these conversations standing there, holding the rails."