Secretary of Defense James Mattis is denying making the negative statements about President Donald Trump that are claimed in a new book by the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward.
And he’s not leaving any room for doubt.
“The contemptuous words about the president attributed to me in Woodward’s book were never uttered by me or in my presence,” Mattis said in a statement, according to Washington Examiner.
“While I generally enjoy reading fiction, this is a uniquely Washington brand of literature, and his anonymous sources do not lend credibility.”
In Twitter posts Tuesday, Trump also gave his opinion on Woodward’s book, calling it “discredited” and called the quotes in it “a con on the public.”
The Woodward book has already been refuted and discredited by General (Secretary of Defense) James Mattis and General (Chief of Staff) John Kelly. Their quotes were made up frauds, a con on the public. Likewise other stories and quotes. Woodward is a Dem operative? Notice timing?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2018
Trump also hinted at pushing a change to libel laws in light of the book.
Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost. Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018
The portrayal of Mattis by Woodward was one that the public has never witnessed before.
For example, Woodward claimed Mattis “was particularly exasperated and alarmed” by Trump’s behavior, “telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader’,” according to The Washington Post.
The statements that Woodward attributed to Mattis seem out of character for the stoic, former Marine general. The man has spent his life in a disciplined chain of command.
Of course, Woodward’s information did not come from Mattis himself. He relied on unnamed sources.
Trump questioned Woodward’s sources in a phone call.
“Are you naming names? Or do you just say ‘sources’?” Trump asked Woodward. Woodward responded that he narrates incidents and names those who were present at the time.
In a statement released Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders blasted the work.
“This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the president look bad,” the statement said, according to CBS News.
That’s not how liberals would put it, of course. According to Vox senior politics reporter Andrew Prokop, Woodward analyzed interviews with numerous anonymous sources, then created “reconstructions” of what he believed happened at meetings behind closed doors.
“Woodward is a master of reconstructing internal meetings by cross-referencing what various attendees have given him,” Prokop wrote.
It is inevitable that statements given by former employees would be exaggerated or potentially false. There is no way to be sure anything in the book is true if Woodward is required to “cross-reference” various potentially conflicting statements.
It might be the case that some of Woodward’s “reconstructions” are completely factual, but there is no way to discern which portions of the book are factual and which portions of the book are embellished or outright false.
I would be cautious about claims made in Woodward’s book. As Mattis said, “his anonymous sources do not lend credibility.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.