Separating Facts from Fiction in Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury Book
by Stephen Lendman (stephenlendman.org – Home – Stephen Lendman)
At times, Trump is his own worst enemy. Blasting Wolff’s Fire and Fury book made it a near-instant best-seller.
It tops Amazon’s non-fiction list, book stores selling out copies quickly, some buyers queueing up overnight to get theirs.
It’s available from Amazon in four formats – hardcover, kindle, audiobook and audio CD. The book was available for purchase on January 5.
It already has 620 Amazon customer reviews – most, likely all, by people who haven’t read it, instead commenting from media reports.
Wolff has a notorious reputation. An earlier New Republic profile said “(m)uch to the annoyance of (his) critics, the scenes in his columns aren’t recreated so much as created – springing from (his) imagination rather than from actual knowledge of events,” adding:
“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…”
So what’s true and dubious in his book? It’s up to sources he quoted and cited to set the record straight.
On January 5, the New Republic said many journalists covering Trump question his “factual accuracy and his allegedly unethical approach to sourcing.”
The NYT is an unrelenting Trump basher. Yet its reporter Maggie Haberman said Wolff “creates a narrative that is notionally true, conceptually true. The details are often wrong.”
Trump confidant Tom Barrack was quoted, saying Trump is “not only crazy. He’s stupid.” Barrack called the quote “totally false.”
There’s plenty about Trump to criticize. He didn’t become a billionaire from stupidity. I leave it to others to judge his mental state.
The Washington meat grinder might drive most mere mortals nuts, especially for anyone criticized by the media daily.
According to Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman, Wolff breaks basic journalistic ethics to get scoops. He quoted him saying he does “what was necessary to get the story.”
He accused Wolff of “viciously attack(ing) journalists, fueling public distrust in the news media in service of buttering up his Trump sources to…write” his Fire and Fury book, managing to get White House access to do it.
The New Republic slammed him, saying he’s a shoddy, dishonest journalist and his book has to be read with suspicion.”
He “clearly plays loose with the facts, and he earned and maintained access to the administration by defending it against the media.”
New Republic’s Michelle Cottle accused him of “burning sources by putting off-the-record comments on the record” – equating his book to dubious gossip columnists.
By email, Law Professor Francis Boyle said much the same thing, saying:
“As I see it, and you are free to disagree, this would be as of the Mainstream News Media had all fallen for Kitty Kelly’s book and then used it to try to discredit (Nancy) Reagan. Actually, they tried and failed. Trump will crucify them all.”
In 1991, she got $3.5 million for her book, titled “Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography,” filling it with lots of innuendo and inflammatory remarks.
Journalist Michael Crowley once called her “the consummate gossip monger, a vehicle for all the rumor and innuendo surrounding her illustrious subjects.”
Wolff appears cut out of the same mold. Trump did himself a great disservice by bashing him, giving him the kind of publicity no author and publisher can buy.
Wolff’s dubious journalism is to hang around subjects and their associates he wants to write about.
In his Fire and Fury preface, he admitted not always trying to omit self-serving, dishonest comments, saying:
“Many of the accounts of what has happened in the Trump White House are in conflict with one another; many, in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue. These conflicts, and that looseness with the truth, if not with reality itself, are an elemental thread of the book.”
“Sometimes I have let the players offer their versions, in turn allowing the reader to judge them.”
“In other instances I have, through a consistency in the accounts and through sources I have come to trust, settled on a version of events I believe to be true.”
In other words, he failed to separate facts from fiction, polar opposite what journalism is supposed to be all about.
Trump is a notorious liar. Perhaps he and Wolff are a matched pair – each playing fast and loose with the truth.
My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”