The more Michael Wolff talks about his book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” the more copies he sells and the more he exposes his unique form of quasi-journalism. The self-owning campaign took a definitive step forward on Thursday morning’s “Morning Joe” on MSNBC.
Here’s the full chronology:
Jan. 5: “Fire and Fury” is released ahead of schedule on account of “unprecedented demand” fueled by the release of book excerpts and general astonishment that President Trump is so unfit for the presidency. Toward the end of the book is a passage laced with Wolffian innuendo regarding Trump’s relationship with U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley. Washington Post book critic Carlos Lozada spotted it right away:
There were other passages hinting at Trump-Haley closeness, including an affirmation that Haley, “with requisite submission, could be [Trump’s] heir apparent.”
Jan. 19: In an appearance on HBO’s “Real Time,” Wolff banters with host Bill Maher about a current presidential extramarital affair. Saying he’s “absolutely sure” that such activity is occurring, Wolff concedes that he lacks the “blue dress” to prove it for the book. Even so, he tells the audience that a passage toward the end of the book includes the goods. “You’ll know it. Now that I’ve told you, when you hit that paragraph, you’re going to say ‘Bingo,'” says Wolff.
Jan. 26: Politico interviews Haley, who denies any affair and calls the rumors that resulted from Wolff’s book and the Maher appearance “disgusting.”
Jan. 31: Interviewers from theSkimm press Wolff on Haley’s being “distraught” over the rumors that Wolff so artfully propagated. “I would say she seems to have embraced it,” argues Wolff, who goes on to say, “The book doesn’t accuse her, I didn’t accuse her. So, in effect, some other reporter accused her.”
Feb. 1: On “Morning Joe,” Wolff faces more grilling on the topic. “I found it puzzling that she would deny something she was not accused of,” says Wolff. Co-host Mika Brzezinski asks him, “Do you regret inferring anything about Nikki Haley?” Wolff refrains from correcting the infer-imply problem and goes with the misuse: “I didn’t infer anything about Nikki Haley. What I inferred was that the president is — that many of the people around the president believe he is still involved with various women.”
The God of Infer-Imply Propriety thereupon folded over in pain.
Getting back to the underlying stuff, Brzezinski wasn’t having it. “I’m gonna go as far as to say that you might be having a fun time playing a little game dancing around this, but you’re slurring a woman, it’s disgraceful,” Brzezinski said. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg asked Wolff if he was “suggesting that the language is not ambiguous in any way in the things that you’ve said and the way you’ve stated it?”
“Read me the language,” importuned Wolff. “Are you kidding me?” asked Brzezinski, apparently inferring something less than good faith from Wolff’s bluster. She declared the interview over.
Whereupon Wolff moved his self-owning act to Twitter.
He chose to associate himself with Trump’s abusive slams against Brzezinski, which won’t be repeated here.
He chose to, well, offer a pretty insightful point about the dynamics of dramatic interview cutoffs:
He chose to play the victim:
He chose to continue denying the outrage of writing innuendo in his book, and then advising Bill Maher on how to interpret that innuendo:
And then he chose to write something that refutes itself:
Mr. Wolff: Brzezinski and her co-host Joe Scarborough are entitled to gossip about all kinds of things off camera. It may not be as noble as engaging about the implications for Obamacare of killing the individual mandate, but people gossip. And as long as they don’t, like, uncork that gossip on HBO for the whole world to sample, then that’s just fine.
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