Media critic

Nikki Haley could have said this: I have no idea what you are talking about.

Instead, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations took a different tack during a Politico interview. “I have literally been on Air Force One once and there were several people in the room when I was there,” said Haley, referring to a flight from D.C. to Long Island last summer. “[Michael Wolff] says that I’ve been talking a lot with the president in the Oval about my political future. I’ve never talked once to the president about my future, and I am never alone with him.”

Why all the protestations? Because Haley was “rebutting” a suggestion that Wolff very intentionally planted in his hot-selling book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.” During an interview with Bill Maher, the host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Wolff said, “You just have to read between the lines. . . . It’s toward the end of the book.”

That passage in “Fire and Fury,” Wolff told Maher, concerns an instance of current marital infidelity on part of President Trump, though Wolff confessed in the same breath that he couldn’t nail it down: “There is something in the book that I was absolutely sure of, but it is so incendiary that I just didn’t have the ultimate proof,” he said.

Maher asked, “Is it a woman thing?”

“Well, yeah, I didn’t have the blue dress,” said Wolff, referring to evidence of President Bill Clinton’s encounters with Monica Lewinsky. To assist Maher in reading between the lines, Wolff even offered directions: “It’s toward the end of the book. You’ll know it. Now that I’ve told you, when you hit that paragraph, you’re going to say ‘Bingo.’ ”

Even weeks before Wolff’s little tip to Maher, savvy readers had figured out precisely what Wolff was hoping to convey. The Post’s Carlos Lozada, for example:

More suggestions: Wolff wrote in “Fire and Fury” that loyalists to Stephen K. Bannon, the former White House strategist, feared “Haley’s hold on the president.” And Wolff alleged that Haley had concluded Trump would be a single-term president, and “that she, with requisite submission, could be his heir apparent.”

There is, actually, nothing “between the lines” in Wolff’s treatment. Haley called the rumors “disgusting” and “highly offensive.”

The Erik Wemple Blog will make no pronouncements on the interactions between Trump and Haley. That’s because we don’t know too much about the topic, and certainly not enough to engage in wink-wink innuendo about a possible affair. And by Wolff’s own admission, he doesn’t have sufficient proof to put the matter in plain language in “Fire and Fury.” What he couldn’t allege in print, however, he hints at on television, a medium that lends itself to loose talk.

It’s no coincidence that “Fire and Fury” has sold more than 1.7 million copies.

As we’ve noted before, Wolff has criticized the U.S. media for miring itself in the “weeds” of Trump coverage. “I’m clearly not stuck in the weeds,” said Wolff.  “I have obviously managed to convey this story in a way that people get, that moves them and they understand.” Yes, that “way” is also known as “sleaze.”

Read more by Erik Wemple:

Michael Wolff to MSNBC: ‘If it rings true, it is true’

Michael Wolff, king of the beat sweetener: ‘I certainly said what was ever necessary to get the story’

Sean Hannity’s finest hour

CNN reinstates Ryan Lizza