Media critic

Author Michael Wolff so thoroughly enjoyed bringing the accountability to President Trump. In round after round of interviews following the early January release of his book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” the longtime New York journalist would happily expand upon the book’s themes: that aides to President Trump unanimously agreed that he was unfit for the office; that Trump and his top aides never expected to win; that the White House was riven by a paralyzing factionalism.

Now the accountability is descending on Wolff himself, and he is crumbling in theatrical fashion. “I can’t hear you,” said Wolff in a recent interview with the Australian news program “Today” under questioning from host Ben Fordham. What Wolff allegedly couldn’t hear was a question from Fordham about Wolff’s allegation — floated during a January book-promotion appearance on HBO’s “Real Time” with Bill Maher.

The Erik Wemple Blog will not abridge the breakdown in Wolff’s audio, because the transcript — plus the video — must be consumed in their entirety. The moment of truth arrived after Fordham and Wolff discussed a number of topics swirling around the Trump presidency, including diplomatic relations with Australia. Then the action kicked in:

Fordham: You said during a TV interview just last month that you are ‘absolutely sure’ that Donald Trump is currently having an affair while president behind the back of the first lady. And I’ll repeat, you said you were ‘absolutely sure.’

Wolff: Hold, hold … I can’t … I

Fordham: Just last week, though, you backflipped and said I quote, ‘I do not know if the president is having an affair.’ Do you owe the president and the first lady an apology, Mr. Wolff?”

Wolff: I can’t hear you

Fordham: Just last month …

Wolff: Hello?

Fordham: … you said you were absolutely sure that the president was having an affair, and now you say …

Wolff: I’m not getting, I’m not getting anything.

Fordham: … that he is not. You’re not hearing me, Mr. Wolff?

Wolff: I’m not getting anything.

Fordham: We were hearing each other well just before. You’re not hearing me, Mr. Wolff?

Wolff: Do you hear? I’m not, I’m not hearing anything.

Fordham: Mr. Wolff was hearing me before, but he’s not hearing me anymore, so it looks like the interview may be over. Mr. Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” is out now and he is about to take off on a speaking tour, so I think we will leave it there.

At that point, Fordham’s co-host said, “Gee, that was an unfortunate question to miss, wasn’t it?” To which Fordham replied, “I think he might have heard.” Co-host: “I think he did. I think he absolutely did.”

Indeed: This was the most unlikely technological breakdown in the history of Australian broadcasting. Consider that Wolff and Fordham were chatting away sans glitch for minutes before this crippling audio hack overcame Wolff’s earpiece. And what’s even better: Wolff appears to wait for gaps in Fordham’s delivery to declare that he can’t hear anything. It’s worth watching over and over and over.

Another choice coincidence relates to the timing of Wolff’s apparent hearing outage. He first begins to exhibit signs of unease at the very moment that Fordham mentions the word “affair.”

The broadcaster subsequently released footage from its London studio, where Wolff was allegedly experiencing technical difficulties. It shows that the audio was working just fine.

So Wolff may want to quit the promotions. There’s no way that any self-respecting journalist, at this point, would refrain from asking him about the Trump-affair matter. Though “Fire and Fury” doesn’t allege an affair, Wolff said in his Maher interview that he was “absolutely sure” about something scandalous. When Maher asked whether it was a “woman” thing, Wolff confirmed, “It is.” He went on to advise that people needed to “read between the lines” in the book to find the telltale passage. “It’s toward the end of the book,” said Wolff. “When you hit that paragraph, you’re going to say, ‘Bingo.'” A passage at the end of the book includes some suggestive language about Trump’s relationship with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

Last week, Wolff was pressed with great precision by a Dutch TV host — and a member of the audience — on his use of two mediums to glue together a rumor guaranteed to sell books. He became agitated with the pressure, lashing out, “Let me say this as directly as I can. Let’s go right through anybody’s thick skull. I did not — I do not know who Donald Trump is having an affair with, okay?”

Read more by Erik Wemple:

‘I do not know if the president is having an affair’: Michael Wolff squirms on Dutch TV

It’s the Michael Wolff self-destruction tour

‘Scripted’ controversy: CNN releases emails of correspondence with Florida student

Ted Cruz says questions from Capitol Hill reporters are ‘never about substance.’ Oh really?

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