The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Michael Wolff: Nikki Haley ‘embraced’ rumors of an affair with President Trump

Placeholder while article actions load

As noted in this space, Michael Wolff, author of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” orchestrated a remarkable multimedia slime job against Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. In an appearance on Bill Maher’s HBO show, Wolff confirmed that President Trump was currently having an extramarital affair. “You just have to read between the lines,” said Wolff, who insisted he was “absolutely sure” of the matter but lacked the “blue dress” to prove it.

Even so, hinted Wolff, readers of “Fire and Fury” could figure out the identity of Trump’s love interest by directing themselves to “the end of the book.” There, curious and gossip-hungry Americans had already found innuendo-laden passages about Trump and Haley. Like this:

There’s another contention that Haley, “with requisite submission, could be [Trump’s] heir apparent.”

Rumors inevitably roared, to the point that Haley was forced to reject the rumors in an interview with Politico. “[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.” “Disgusting” and “highly offensive” are the terms that Haley used to characterize the rumors.

Follow Erik Wemple's opinionsFollow

Now the matter has boomeranged back to Wolff, who is showing why, perhaps, we might not want to place too much credence in the entire book. In an interview with theSkimm, Wolff was confronted with the fact that Haley was “distraught” about the whole thing. “Or she seems to me — I would say she seems to have embraced it,” responded Wolff. Asked to explain himself, Wolff continued, “Well, I don’t know. All she does is hammer on this fact. I mean, if I were being accused of something, and I am not accusing her of anything. She hasn’t tried to avoid this, let’s say,” responded Wolff.

Embraced it? In what reportorial universe is Wolff living? Here’s an idea for Wolff: Go straight to the Politico interview with Haley, and listen to her address this matter. “It is absolutely not true. It is highly offensive and it’s disgusting … It amazes me what people will do and the lies they will say for money and power,” said Haley, who rebutted the specifics of Wolff’s allegations. The “bigger issue,” said Haley, was that “if you speak your mind and you’re strong about it and you say what you believe, there is a small percentage of people that resent that and the way they deal with it is to try to throw arrows — lies or not — to diminish you.” While most men respect women, Haley said, there’s a “small group” who will “resent” women doing a righteous job.

Quite an embrace. If Wolff has genuinely concluded that Haley has really and truly “embraced” this rumor, then we must question other conclusions he has reached.

In the course of a brief video with theSkimm, Wolff piles on the self-owning remarks. Though he knows full well that he engaged in a cutesy multimedia innuendo campaign against Haley on Maher’s show, he somehow washes that moment away. “The book doesn’t accuse her, I didn’t accuse her. So, in effect, some other reporter accused her,” he says. Sure: Maybe that “reporter” was the cheeky fellow who told Maher’s audience, “You’ll know it. Now that I’ve told you, when you hit that paragraph, you’re going to say ‘Bingo.'”

Another approach for Wolff might have been to admit that his comments to Maher were ill-advised. Then again, he told the “Today” show that he’d written “millions” of words without writing a correction. We’re learning why.

“Literally, the book is the book,” he said, again ignoring the CliffsNotes he provided on HBO.

Michael Wolff, author of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” spoke to the “Today” show Jan. 5, following President Trump’s legal efforts to st (Video: Taylor Turner/The Washington Post)