January 5th, 2018

Have Wolff’s minutes of fame already started to wind down?

Maybe, at least among anyone paying attention to this sort of thing:

Michael Wolff, the author of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” included a note at the start that casts significant doubt on the reliability of the specifics contained in the rest of its pages.

Several of his sources, he says, were definitely lying to him, while some offered accounts that flatly contradicted those of others.

But some were nonetheless included in the vivid account of the West Wing’s workings, in a process Wolff describes as “allowing the reader to judge” whether the sources’ claims are true.

That’s quite a process. I think it used to be called throwing enough mud against the wall and seeing what sticks.

In other cases, the media columnist said, he did use his journalistic judgment and research to arrive at what he describes “a version of events I believe to be true.”…

The book itself, reviewed by Business Insider from a copy acquired prior to its Friday publication, is not always clear about what level of confidence the author has in any particular assertion.

Lengthy, private conversations are reported verbatim, as are difficult-to-ascertain details like what somebody was thinking or how the person felt.

In other words, what used to be called making stuff [or sh**] up. Plenty of people have disputed quotes attributed to them in the book, as well, but Wolff says he’s “comfortable” with what he wrote.

Then again, Wolff is making millions, and I’m not. So there’s that.

25 Responses to “Have Wolff’s minutes of fame already started to wind down?”

  1. Ray Says:

    He probably wants Jason Blair’s old job at the NYT. Jason Blair wrote about interviews with people he had never met that occurred at places he had never been. The editors knew he was making up stuff but they evidently considered it first rate journalism and promoted him. He was a worthy successor to Walter Duranty.

  2. n.n Says:

    The JournoList who read Wolff.

  3. Griffin Says:

    I definitely get the feeling that this has fizzled out even faster than some of the other media hysterias of the last year.

  4. CapnRusty Says:

    Maybe we have a new definition of “Crying Wolff.”

  5. AesopFan Says:

    Kitty Kelly’s name ring any bells?

    “Michael Crowley of Slate magazine once called Kelley “the consummate gossip monger, a vehicle for all the rumor and innuendo surrounding her illustrious subjects”.[1] Kelley maintains, “I am an unabashed admirer of transparency and believe in the freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment”[2] and, to that end, her writing is about “moving an icon out of the moonlight and into the sunlight”. Crowley, while conceding that Kelley’s books in particular her Sinatra biography, have revealed core truths not addressed by more sympathetic biographers, has also stated that her investigative methods are questionable, and many of the claims in her books have been falsified, as with her 1990 People magazine story about John F. Kennedy and organized crime boss Sam Giancana, and her Nancy Reagan biography.[1] Similar criticism has been leveled at her by Janet Maslin of The New York Times[3] and Joe Klein of Time magazine.[4]”

  6. AesopFan Says:

    CapnRusty Says:
    January 5th, 2018 at 4:25 pm


    And I should know, right?;)

  7. Griffin Says:

    Yep, this really is Kitty Kelley all over again.

    Wasn’t her book the one that brought the whole Nancy Reagan/astrology story to the world?

  8. Oldflyer Says:

    There simply has to be some kind of consequences for this stuff. I call it sedition–attempting to overthrow the government through dishonesty–and would prosecute him.

    Most will say, no way could you convict on something like that. But, as I have previously noted; in many punitive prosecutions, conviction is secondary. Just being indicted and having to defend yourself is traumatic, and possibly financially ruinous. Besides, there is always a very good chance as the process plays out, you can find a lie. Right Martha? Right Scooter? Right General Flynn?

  9. Shepherd Says:

    At least some details are probably true. Like Trump enjoying sleeping with his friends’ wives. We know from his own words that he’ll try to cuckhold other men. And the bit about wanting Sessions to protect him like he thought Holder protected Obama. He said so in the NYT interview at Mar a Lago. No idea how to separate those from the fantasy. But Wolff said he had tapes, he could go ahead and release those.

  10. Griffin Says:

    ‘At least some details are probably true’

    Wow, what a ringing endorsement that is. Maybe we can get that as a back cover blurb for the paperback edition!!

  11. neo-neocon Says:


    Of course some details are probably true (unless, of course, he’s like Lillian Hellman).

    Pick the ones you like, the rest of us will pick the ones we like.

    But that’s not any way to write a book—although Wolff will be laughing all the way to the bank.

  12. Oldflyer Says:

    Shepherd is becoming very predictable

  13. parker Says:

    Trump is an easy target for innuendo. So there you go.

  14. J.J. Says:

    Wolff has accomplished his mission. Few who dislike Trump will care if his facts are hazy or made up. It is a book of gossip, dished in normal gossipy fashion. And non-discerning people will eat it up.

    This is probably number one of a series of hit jobs by various authors. The never ending anti-Trump TV and newspaper stories aren’t having the desired effect of ending Trump’s effectiveness. Bring out another weapon – gossipy tabloid type books about Trump’s inabilities/incuriousness/poor education/early dementia/you name it.

    This book should be exhibit number one as an illustration of the mental dysfunction known as Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS). Mental dysfunction can only be overcome if the patient wants to change. Those suffering from TDS just don’t want to change. (Just my unprofessional opinion.) 🙂

  15. Sgt. Mom Says:

    It has eventually turned out that Mary McCarthy was right about Lillian Hellman as a memoirist – there’s a bio of her by William Wright (Lillian Hellman, the Image, the Woman) which explores some of the issues involved. Besides being an unrepentant Stalinist, the woman basically began drinking her own ink, so to speak, much to the horror and resentment of other people who had been involved in the same events.

  16. Yankee Says:

    There’s one passage on page 57 that I would like to see Michael Wolff questioned about, as for the source, whether he believes it is really true, and why he put it in the book, and why the editors left it in there.

    Apparently in 1959, a 13 year old Donald Trump was so upset about the size of his (allegedly) small hands that he had prosthetic hands made, after seeing one of the Tussaud wax exhibitions.

    “One fateful evening, one of the Bakelite hands fell into a urinal trough at Penn Station. The bars had just closed, and hundreds of men were relieving themselves, laughing. Donald was forced to watch on, repulsed by his germophobia, as his beloved fake hand was doused in successive shafts of gold. By the time a janitor had fished the hand out, he was distraught.”

    Michael Wolff is a liar and a fraud. That one passage is so obviously made up, that his only motivation is one of sheer malice and dislike of Mr. Trump. Besides, everyone knows that Bakelite had been superseded by better plastic compounds by the late 1940s.

  17. Yankee Says:

    And while I think of it, don’t forget to call your local cable company, and request that they add “The Gorilla Channel” to their line-up. That’s quality programming, worth watching at least 17 hours a day.

  18. Mike K Says:

    The Kitty Kelley association was one I had forgotten.

    I agree that it will have a short shelf life except among Trump haters. Slandering presidents is an old American custom going back to Jefferson and Madison.
    The mystery to me is why Bannon destroyed his career for this. Larry Kudlow wrote that the stock market rallied on the news that Bannon had done this.

  19. Gary D. G. Says:

    I understand it’s made the NY Times Best Sellers list under
    Fiction: Hard Cover

  20. William Graves Says:

    “Trump: The White House” is some sort of Hollywood remake of “Trump: The Dossier.” I wonder how long it will take to figure out who paid for this version.

  21. Irv Says:

    The people who read this book and believed it are the same ones who read and believed the mainstream media guaranteeing that Hillary would win. It said what they wanted to hear so they believed it. That’s not a very good way to find out what the real story is.

    The possibility of belief should come only after assessing the credibility of the source. If the source has none then don’t even bother to read them. If the source is credible then spend the time to verify even those claims.

    We used to shun known liars and refused to listen to anything they had to say. I’ve always have and still do find that to be a good policy.

  22. AesopFan Says:

    Griffin Says:
    January 5th, 2018 at 4:40 pm
    Yep, this really is Kitty Kelley all over again.

    Wasn’t her book the one that brought the whole Nancy Reagan/astrology story to the world?
    * * *
    Wikipedia says that Donald Regan outed her after he resigned as Chief of Staff. Nancy was indeed consulting an astrologer, but only about her husband’s safety — not, say, how to move national security information from one email account to another.

  23. AesopFan Says:

    J.J. Says:
    January 5th, 2018 at 10:18 pm
    Wolff has accomplished his mission.
    * * *
    Which reminds me of the Proctor & Gamble attempt to defend themselves against claims that their logo was Satanic: they finally just gave up because once the meme was out, no matter how many times it was debunked, the zombie idiots kept resurrecting it.

  24. AesopFan Says:

    Mike K Says:
    January 6th, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    The mystery to me is why Bannon destroyed his career for this.
    * **
    He must have known dissing Trump’s relatives (much less Himself) to a reporter would have bad consequences somewhere down the line, and at the time (IIRC) he was still on board the ship at the WH.
    So why arm the enemy?
    Did he (a seasoned journalist) not vet this embedded interviewer for integrity and bias?!?! Was he blindsided, or hoping to take down competitor’s in the administration, or just too egotistical to think he could be hurt?
    I notice that Bannon hasn’t claimed Wolff misquoted him, although I might have missed that.

    Paul Mirengoff has some speculations here, but I don’t find them fully satisfactory.

    I thought of the Rolling Stone interview with General McChrystal that got him canned for being candid, and discovered a few things I didn’t know, which is that the reporter’s access was unusual and accidental, at a time when the general and staff were not “on guard” as usual with journalists.
    I also learned some details about the Rolling Stone story that didn’t percolate through the internet onto the few blogs I was reading at the time.
    Judging from the last graf quoted, people didn’t like finding out that the general was a Milkshake Duck (I had to look up Gorilla Channel — which also had not reached the Webz I frequent, and learned all sorts of new things….)


    “It has been widely reported that Hastings got his big story because of a fluke – the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland that trapped McChrystal and his team in Paris where they were on official business.

    It was there that the journalist got some of his most explosive material, including McChrystal’s anger at having to glad-hand French officialdom and an account of the four star general getting drunk on Bud Light Lime with his men.

    But Hastings says being stranded by the volcano only played a part, and that the most newsworthy things happened in the first 24 hours that he was hanging round with “Team America”, as the general’s close colleagues styled themselves.

    He said just being in Paris was the main advantage he had over journalists who have spent time trailing McChrystal around Afghanistan – Team America were in relaxation mode and were more indiscreet than normal.

    And he argues that the special access journalists get to McChrystal in Afghanistan also leads them to not report as fully and freely as they might.

    He said: “They go on these trips with McChrystal and they get to see all this cool stuff and they completely drink the Kool-Aid. They think McChrystal is awesome, these guys are fun to be with and I’m in a room talking about classified stuff.”

    For many people it was a shock to read of McChrystal and his team in Paris getting “totally shitfaced”. The general has a (perhaps embellished) reputation for monk-like asceticism, eating once a day and banning alcohol from his headquarters in Kabul.”

  25. AesopFan Says:

    AesopFan Says:
    January 5th, 2018 at 4:32 pm
    Kitty Kelly’s name ring any bells?
    * *
    So glad to see David Harsanyi reads our comment threads!
    “That’s the problem with a book of rumor-mongering. You can never know what’s true, though people always tend to believe the tidbits that reinforce their worldview. Not that these sorts of tomes are new. Every president has his Kitty Kelley. What is new, though, is the wall-to-wall coverage of the book. Wolff has given outlets a convenient excuse to repeat unverified stories about the Trump administration that they couldn’t talk about otherwise. “

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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