Writer Who Launched Trump-Bannon Feud Has Credibility Questioned... And It's Not the First Time


A new tell-all book about the first year of the Trump administration continued to make headlines Thursday, but by that point, its author had become one of the story’s controversial figures.

Leaked excerpts from “Fire and Fury,” columnist Michael Wolff’s latest book, created a firestorm this week with quotes from former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon that cast aspersion on those closest to President Donald Trump.

As a result of the attention, including a direct and official response from the White House, CNN reports that the book’s publisher has pushed up its release to Friday, four days earlier than planned.

With the attention, however, has come scrutiny of both the book’s author and his methods in presenting what appeared to be his nearly unfettered access to Trump’s inner circle.

As The Washington Post‘s Kyle Swenson chronicled in a detailed article Thursday, Wolff has previously faced criticism for playing fast and loose with the facts.

Hunter Biden May Have Just Ratted Out Joe, Acknowledges Identity of the 'Big Guy' in $5M China Deal

Concerns over the accuracy of details included in his latest book have not been entirely contained to Trump and his supporters, though White House press secretary Sarah Sanders delivered one of the harsher critiques when asked about the brewing controversy during a news conference Thursday.

She dismissed Wolff’s bombshell revelations as “tabloid trash,” which she called “false and fraudulent” as well as “sad” and “pathetic,” according to Deadline.

She did not confirm, however, that Trump intended to sue the book’s publisher after his lawyers issued a cease and desist order against Henry Holt and Company earlier in the day.

Though Wolff’s writing has appeared in the pages and on the sites of some of the nation’s most venerable media outlets, Swenson rehashed some of the often critical ways his style of reporting have been described in the past.

Much of the less-than-flattering analysis deals with his reputation for writing from the perspective of someone who has gained unparalleled access to his subject. Once he has established that trust, however, some say he uses it to embellish his reports with sensationalism.

Historian and journalist Eric Alterman, for example, described Wolff as “a portraitist who has mastered the art of the suck-up putdown.”

A 2004 article by New Republic’s Michelle Cottle cast him as a part “gossip columnist, part psychotherapist, part social anthropologist” who “invites readers to be a fly on the wall of the moguls’ inner sanctum.”

Cottle cited an editor who described what he believed to be Wolff’s strong suit as a writer.

“His great gift is the appearance of intimate access,” the source said. “He is adroit at making the reader think that he has spent hours and days with his subject, when in fact he may have spent no time at all.”

Biden's Border: 'That's a Rape Tree' - Border Rancher Reveals What Liberal 'Compassion' Really Looks Like

In the wake of the excerpts of “Fire and Fury” this week, others have piled on Wolff, describing him as a writer willing to toe the line of journalistic integrity.

He has been attacked for “pushing the facts as far as they’ll go, and sometimes further than they can tolerate,” Paul Farhi wrote Wednesday in The Washington Post.

Swenson acknowledged the respect Wolff has achieved among his peers and audience throughout his career, but noted what appeared to be a fundamental flaw some have identified in his work.

“Critics have blasted the writer in the past for filling his column inches with insight and imaginative recreation rather than actual reporting,” he wrote.

Apparent flattery took a negative turn in a 2008 New York Times book review by David Carr, who said that while Wolff “may know all, he gets some of it wrong.”

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a wide range of newsrooms.
Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a variety of newsroom settings. After covering crime and other beats for newspapers and radio stations across the U.S., he served as managing editor at Western Journalism until 2017. He has also been a regular guest and guest host on several syndicated radio programs. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and son.
Texas Press Association, Best News Writing - 2012
Bachelor of Arts, Journalism - Averett University
Professional Memberships
Online News Association
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment