Michael Wolff, a columnist for USA Today, The Hollywood Reporter, and GQ magazine, published a book on Friday, Jan. 5, about Donald Trump’s presidency.
Based on reviews, excerpts, and one lengthy adaptation, the book attempts to portray Trump as intellectually retarded. In doing so, the book’s portrayal is closely aligned with the anti-Trump strategy adopted by the Democratic Party shortly after his inauguration.
Wolff stated his book is based on “conversations that took place over a period of eighteen months with the president, with most members of his senior staff—some of whom talked to me dozens of times—and with many people who they in turn spoke to.”
However, Wolff isn’t known for accurate or ethical journalism.
Wolff’s columns gained popularity in the late 1990s for harsh criticism of New York media moguls.
Rather than in-depth investigations, Wolff focused on embarrassing personal details and speculations, as described in the extensive 2004 profile by the New Republic of him.
“His great gift is the appearance of intimate access,” an editor who has worked with Wolff told the publication. “He is adroit at making the reader think that he has spent hours and days with his subject, when in fact he may have spent no time at all.”
In what the profile called a “psychoanalytic schtick,” Wolff makes the reader believe he’s pierced the inner psyche of his subjects. But he’s been repeatedly accused of distorting the truth.
As the profile stated, Wolff “eschews traditional reporting“ and “the scenes in his columns aren’t recreated so much as created—springing from Wolff’s imagination rather than from actual knowledge of events.”
After he released his second book, “Burn Rate” in 1998, 13 people familiar with the subject, including seven of the book’s main characters, said, “Wolff invented or changed quotes,” Brill’s Content reported.
With his political persuasions described as liberal “in a striving, aspirational, Clintonian new-Dem way,” Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” seems to follow the same pattern.
“In some places, he recreates entire scenes, complete with dialogue, without explicitly identifying his sources,” The New Yorker noted in a review of the book.
One of the key characters in his narrative, former White House aide Katie Walsh, already denied the negative comments about Trump that Wolff attributed to her. Trump’s friend Tom Barrack did the same.
One source that Wolff relied heavily upon, Trump’s former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, has so far denied only part of the claims attributed to him in the book. Trump’s lawyers have since sent Bannon a cease-and-desist letter accusing him of breaching a non-disclosure agreement, ABC News reported.
Axios reported Wolff has recorded conversations with Bannon, providing a list of typed notes purported to be a partial index list for the recordings. Axios stated, without further proof, that Wolff has recordings of other sources too, some of whom thought they were talking off the record.
That wouldn’t be a new tactic for Wolff either.
“He has a reputation for busting embargoes and burning sources by putting off-the-record comments on the record,” the New Republic profile said.
Trump issued a statement regarding Bannon on Wednesday.
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency,” it reads. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
Trump addressed the book itself in a Friday tweet:
“I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book! I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist. Look at this guy’s past and watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve!”
I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book! I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist. Look at this guy’s past and watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2018
Trump’s attorneys sent additional cease-and-desist letters to Wolff and his publisher, Henry Holt and Company.
Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, called the book “complete fantasy and just full of tabloid gossip.”
“I’m not going to go through every single page of the book, but there are numerous examples of falsehoods that take place in the book,” she said during the Thursday White House press briefing.
She did give one example though: The book claims Trump didn’t know who former House Speaker John Boehner was, which Sanders called “pretty ridiculous.”
“Frankly, some of you have even tweeted out that the president not only knows him but has played golf with him, tweeted about him,” she said.
Wolff responded to Trump’s comments on Friday with yet another character attack.
“My creditably is being questioned by a man who has less credibility than perhaps anyone who has ever walked on earth,” he told NBC “Today.”