In an age of “alternative facts,” “fake news,” and a growing lack of trust for the institutions that we as a country rely on to sift through the truth and the illusion, a book like Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” can be difficult to believe.
Even if everything in the book has validity to it, it’s tough to escape the fact that Wolff was known for embellishing his stories prior to writing his controversial book. That on top of the fact that the White House is now completely denying the book or ever having spoken with Wolff.
“So much Fake News is being reported,” President Trump tweeted. “They don’t even try to get it right, or correct it when they are wrong. They promote the Fake Book of a mentally deranged author, who knowingly writes false information. The Mainstream Media is crazed that WE won the election!”
The Trump administration is no stranger to the “He said, He said” argument. But to completely deny all aspects of the book is difficult seeing as some of the moments in the book have already been reported on and proven in past coverage.
What should be said is that Wolff does not write in your typical journalistic style. The book begins with the authors note describing his process of gathering information and how he was able to do this.
Wolff claims to have interviewed over 200 people for his book and when interviewing so many different people, it’s like playing a game of telephone. By the end of the line you may have a completely different story. What Wolff has said in interviews and in his book, is that he took from each story what he felt was the most realistic scenario.
For much of this book you are reading a compilation of multiple stories being told by White House staffers and the actual cabinet members themselves. But what Wolff has said in interviews is that he had to make “judgment calls” on what he believed to be the truth.
This is not a journalistic approach towards this story. But, Wolff has also made it clear he wasn’t exactly a journalist throughout the process of writing. He never went into the White House Press briefing, he often avoided the gaggles and the way he wrote was almost in a cinematic format.
An example of this is in the Prologue of the book. The book begins with a meeting between former Trump Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. It’s January 2017, before Trump would take office. The meeting between the two conservative media moguls is made out to be this sort of epic meeting and passing of the conservative torch from Ailes to Bannon.
When reading “Fire and Fury,” this idea should always be in the head of the reader, that not all of this could’ve played out in such a dramatic fashion. What cannot be denied is the behavior and decisions made by the Trump campaign and their reasoning to them.
It is a well known fact that former New Jersey governor Chris Christie was looking to become the next Vice President. But because of his tumultuous past with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, Christie was not even given a seat in the cabinet. Christie had been the prosecutor of Charlie Kushner, Jared’s father, when Kushner was indicted on conspiracy and tax evasion charges.
Where the book cannot be fully verified, unless Wolff was to release his records of the interviews, is on parts where Wolff questions the Presidents mental fitness, the campaigns actual intensions, and the in-house fighting that went on throughout the campaign and now the White House.
Wolff told Meet the Press’ Chuck Todd that he had no preconceived agenda writing this book.
“You know, I literally kind of knocked on the door and said, “Can I come in?”” Wolff said. “And they said “Okay.” And I came in. I sat on the couch and that’s the point of view that I’ve written this book from. I mean, in the real intention of this book, is to have readers sit with me on the couch and watch what’s going on in the West Wing. I went into this with absolutely no agenda whatsoever. I have no particular politics when it comes to Donald Trump. This is really all about human nature.
What needs to be said to anyone intending to read Michael Wolff’s “bombshell” book is that this should be read with a disclaimer that says, “Based on true events.” This book will undoubtedly be a must see movie in a few years. It is entertaining, shocking and just fun to read but, in a journalistic sense this book breaks basic journalistic rules of embellishment, sharing off the record information, and a lack of citation. Only time will tell if what Wolff has reported is in fact true but for now it must be taken with a grain of salt.