Pushback against ‘Fire and Fury’ author Michael Wolff has ramped up with conservatives vehemently backing POTUS Trump, and even some unlikely media sources calling Wolff’s credibility into question.
Fox News’ Laura Ingraham tweeted a picture of chapter 17 from Wolff’s book titled Abroad and at Home with a caption, “From Wolff book—this is TOTALLY FALSE. I was there! “Distanced themselves from Trump”?! Total fabrication.”
From Wolff book—this is TOTALLY FALSE. I was there! “Distanced themselves from Trump”?! Total fabrication. pic.twitter.com/75QbME75IL
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) January 5, 2018
Meanwhile ‘anti-Trump’ newspaper, The Washington Post detailed on Wednesday how Wolff has a long history of getting facts wrong or even making things up.
The fireworks almost certainly guarantee that the book will become a bestseller. But the second-guessing of Wolff’s work has already begun.
Wolff, for example, writes that Thomas Barrack Jr., a billionaire friend of Trump’s, told a friend that Trump is “not only crazy, he’s stupid.” Barrack on Wednesday denied to a New York Times reporter that he ever said such a thing.
Katie Walsh, a former White House adviser, has also disputed a comment attributed to her by Wolff, that dealing with Trump was “like trying to figure out what a child wants.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders added her own skepticism during her daily briefing on Wednesday. “We know the book has a lot of things, so far that we’ve seen, that are completely untrue,” she said. She was not specific, but Sanders added that Wolff’s characterizations of White House operations were “the opposite of what I saw.”
Wolff, 64, has said his book was based on 200 interviews with White House and campaign staffers, including Bannon. He didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
His reliability has been challenged before — over quotes, descriptions and general accounts he’s provided in his many newspaper and magazine columns and in several books. Wolff has even acknowledged that he can be unreliable: As he recounted in “Burn Rate” — his best-selling book about his time as an early Internet entrepreneur — Wolff kept his bankers at bay by fabricating a story about his father-in-law having open-heart surgery.
“How many fairly grievous lies had I told?” he wrote. “How many moral lapses had I committed? How many ethical breaches had I fallen into? . . . Like many another financial conniver, I was in a short-term mode.” Wolff’s business collapsed in 1997.
“Burn Rate” came under siege from critics who challenged its credibility, including the long verbatim conversations that Wolff recounted despite taking scant notes. Brill’s Content, a now-defunct media-review publication, cited a dozen people who disputed quotes attributed to them in the book.
Wolff followed up “Burn Rate” by taking over the media column at New York magazine, where he almost immediately ran into trouble. Judith Regan, then a hotshot book editor who had been a classmate of Wolff’s at Vassar, vigorously disputed almost every paragraph of Wolff’s column about her. She said she hadn’t had a personal conversation with Wolff in 30 years.
Wolff’s response: “She doesn’t speak to me. . . . I suppose the world is full of people who no longer speak to me.”
New Republic columnist Andrew Sullivan accused Wolff of putting words in his mouth when Wolff wrote in 2001 that Sullivan “believes that he is the most significant gay public intellectual in America today.” Sullivan said he never made any such claim.
In a 2004 cover story for the New Republic, Michelle Cottle wrote that Wolff had become the “It Boy” of New York media after winning two National Magazine Awards for his commentary: “His quick wit, dizzying writing style, and willingness to say absolutely anything about anybody made his column a must-read,” she wrote.
But she added, “Much to the annoyance of Wolff’s critics, the scenes in his columns aren’t recreated so much as created — springing from Wolff’s imagination rather than from actual knowledge of events. Even Wolff acknowledges that conventional reporting isn’t his bag.” An editor who worked with Wolff told Cottle, “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.”
Even Wolff’s anecdote about Trump being unaware of who Boehner was last year seems a bit suspect. The reason? Trump had tweeted about Boehner multiple times since 2011. In September 2015, for example, Trump tweeted this: “Wacky @glennbeck who always seems to be crying (worse than Boehner) speaks badly of me only because I refuse to do his show — a real nut job!”