Not everything is at it seems.
New evidence calls into question the credibility of Michael Wolff, the “journalist” whose yet-unreleased book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” contains alleged quotes from former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon trash-talking both President Donald Trump and his family.
According to The Washington Post, a number of individuals quoted by Wolff have already disputed his claims:
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.”
Moreover, Wolff’s “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,” the Post further notes.
“How many fairly grievous lies had I told?” Wolff 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.”
This is the man whom we should believe?
Splinter News likewise notes that Wolff has never been that respected in the industry as per his lack of meticulousness.
Even the late David Carr, would-be reverend of the media class from his New York Times pulpit, wrote that “Wolff has never distinguished himself as a reporter” when reviewing his 2008 Murdoch biography, The Man Who Owns The News. “Over the years, Carr wrote, “he has succeeded in cutting through the clutter by being far less circumspect—and sometimes more vicious—than other journalists, whom he views as archaic losers about to go the way of the Walkman.” Factual errors be damned, Carr added with a begrudging thumbs-up, for “Wolff prefers the purity of his constructs.”
In other words, he prefers crafting hard-hitting narratives versus ones founded on actual facts.
The site also points out that “journalists have already started poking holes in some of the juicier aspects of Wolff’s account.”
“Just one example: a simple Google search proves Trump has previously spoken about Boehner at length, making the notion that he would respond ‘Who?’ to a mention of the former House Speaker feel dubious at best. But such details are what gets shared or aggregated, often uncritically.”
Cue some additional commentary from The New York Times‘ Maggie Haberman:
Thin but readable. Well written. Several things that are true and several that are not. Light in fact-checking and copy-editing.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) January 3, 2018
Light in fact-checking? It sounds to me like Wolff is more of a gossipy tabloid writer than a real reporter.
The lovely folks at RedState flagged the following stunning excerpt from The Guardian:
Bannon went on, Wolff writes, to say that if any such meeting had to take place, it should have been set up “in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people”. Any information, he said, could then be “dump[ed] … down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication”.
Why would Bannon suggest his own news organization is illegitimate? The folks at RedState suspect Bannon was basically admitting his site sucks. As a fan of Breitbart, I disagree.
I’m more inclined to trust the wisdom of Fox News Talk radio host Tom Shillue, who yesterday theorized that either Bannon was being sarcastic, or Wolff straight-up lied.
And if Bannon was indeed being sarcastic, why didn’t Wolff point that out?
Way back in 2004, The New Republic ran a piece seemingly critical of Wolff, who at the time was a columnist for, I believe, New York magazine.
“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,” the leftist outlet reported:
Even Wolff acknowledges that conventional reporting isn’t his bag. Rather, he absorbs the atmosphere and gossip swirling around him at cocktail parties, on the street, and especially during those long lunches at Michael’s.
Again, this is the man whom we should to believe?
I think not …
In fact, I believe Fox News host Laura Ingraham said it best Wednesday evening.
“Aren’t you kinda playing right into the hands of Democrats and the media, who are hoping for nothing more than your mutually assured destruction?” she asked.
Side Note: I want to give a quick shout-out to CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, from whom I obtained a large chunk of this intel. While I often ding him for fake news, on this he hit the nail on the head. Well done.