Wolff Admits Trump Book Was Rushed, Blames Any ‘Inaccuracies’ on Sources

On Monday’s Morning Joe, co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were both back in-studio to talk to Michael Wolff about his new anti-Trump book Fire and Fury. In a wide-ranging 25-minute interview, Wolff went after his critics at the New York Times and Washington Post, repeatedly called the President’s mental health into question, and even insisted that “100%” of Trump’s “closest” advisors in the White House think that there is “something fundamentally wrong, something that scares them” about the President.

Instead of actively challenging Wolff to provide answers about problems with his reporting (both past and present), Scarborough and Brzezinski acted as Wolff’s biggest apologists, constantly defending his book and making arguments on its behalf.

 

 

In one of the more interesting bits from Wolff’s appearance on the MSNBC morning show, he did make some frank admissions to Joe and Mika about how his book may have “inaccuracies.” However, rather than admit to them openly, Wolff was more concerned with making excuses for why there might be errors or untruths and showed no interest in tempering his ultimate conclusion that Trump is not “mentally fit” to be president.

Brzezinski opened this small segment by asking Wolff: “So, we were talking before the break about, um, some inaccuracies in the book, like -- but not comple-, like -- were you, first of all, in a rush to get this to print for a lot of reasons?”

Wolff replied in the affirmative: “Well, yeah. I mean, this book was reported and written in less than a year. So, you know, this is -- remember, this history is moving pretty fast.”

Brzezinski then went on to detail one incident from the book that she believed Wolff had described incorrectly, but before Wolff could directly respond to Mika’s point, Scarborough jumped in to defend Wolff’s honor and integrity:

BRZEZINSKI: So your, um, your, uh, kind of, critics here will, will have some material to work with. There's misspellings. I know, for example—I'll just speak to the part where we are characterized in it—and, um, there was a scene where Ivanka wanted to talk to Donald about women. And he kept saying: What? What? What? And then you say in the book that Ivanka shouted at him. It was actually me. I said: Donald, women! And I had to make an hourglass to show him women. That was the only way he could understand the word “woman.” And -- so, th-, there's inaccuracies like that, that I, I guess: Do you worry that your critics-?

WOLFF: [interrupting] Whi-, which point? I'm not, not even sure. Which, which, which point was that?

BRZEZINSKI: That was in the, at the lunch at the White House.

WOLFF: At, at, at the lunch.

SCARBOROUGH: But, but, you know, the, the, but, but, the bigger point is, those-.

BRZEZINSKI: Your critics run with that.

SCARBOROUGH: The, to the critics, yeah. They run with these little specific things, but getting, getting a part of a story wrong here or getting something else [unintelligible].

Before Scarborough could finish his thought, Wolff jumped in and started to distance himself from his book’s claims by pushing more responsibility towards his sources:

WOLFF: [interrupting] And some-, and sometimes, you know, you know, you're dependent on your sources there,-

BRZEZINSKI: Right.

WOLFF: -and sometimes your sources,-

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

WOLFF: -now, I don't wanna say who my source was in that particular-

BRZEZINSKI: Okay.

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

WOLFF: -thing, except that [trails off].

SCARBOROUGH: But sometimes the sources get it, yeah,-

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: -a little off.

BRZEZINSKI: Okay.

SCARBOROUGH: And by the way, it's, uh, yeah, um.

BRZEZINSKI: But the spirit of it is completely true.

WOLFF: [interrupting] You know, you know, there’s a lot -- so, so a lot of this stuff, I was not -- and I don't represent myself as, as being there.

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

WOLFF: You know, you have to -- you're, you’re, you’re dependent on, on the people who were there, on their memories. You have to sort their agenda. Um, it's a, it’s a fairly complicated undertaking, which, you know, I mean, that’s the job, and-.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: And by the way, and, and again, just again, to explain this sort of book and then let's, let’s move forward. But, Bob Woodward's been doing it for years where you talk to, you know, 200 people that work in a White House or around a White House, and everybody’s trying to spin Woodward and everybody’s trying to spin the version of events. And you do get though a bigger picture of what's going on there.

“This is the Trump I know,” Brzezinski emphatically added, once again repeating Morning Joe’s message that Wolff’s book simply “rings true” and thus should be believed in spite of committing basic factual errors.

And Scarborough did want to know what the larger truth of Wolff’s book was, asking him: “And what is the big picture that comes out of Fire and Fury? What's, what’s the big idea?”

Wolff replied:

I mean, I think, I think the big idea is that, that these people -- you know, all White Houses are, are fraught places, um, but, but they're, they’re a, they’re a, they’re a whole. People who work for presidents, support a president, um, they're on his side. They're on his team. Um, they may not like the other people in the White House, but it's a, it’s a relatively coherent view at the end of the day.

(...)

Everybody in this White House, and I keep saying this, 100%, because it is 100%, of the people closest to the president, to, to the, to Donald Trump, believe that there is something wrong here, something, something fundamentally wrong, something that scares them. As a matter of fact, they went from -- if, if there was, if there was any reason they stay in the White House now, it's because they are scared. They believe they have a responsibility to the American people.

No wonder people are having trouble believing Wolff’s claim today from CBS This Morning that he has “no political agenda.”

To learn more about the interview, consult the following transcripts of selected segments from it:

7:36 AM EST

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Well so, we've been s-, we’ve been saying on the show daily, and it's not just about Donald Trump. As I said earlier, the, the morning, um, we'd always have the most senior Democratic senators say of Barack Obama in 2009, 2010—he doesn't know what he's doing. But of course, they’d never say that on the record. Well, he -- for the past year, we've had people around Donald Trump, even during the campaign, saying he's not mentally fit to be president. Now that, I mean -- and there is such a reluctance, and I'm not, certainly not knocking The Washington Post. They're actually being conservative, with a small “c.” I've written twice in my column a, a quote about one of people [sic] closest to Donald Trump during the campaign saying he's got early stage of dementia. He repeats the same stories over and over again. His father had it. And it's getting worse. And not a single person who works for him doesn't know he has early signs of dementia. Now, of course, they didn't think he was gonna win. But twice, The Washington Post hasn’t -- would not let me put that in my column, which again, I salute them for having a high bar. But we are at this moment, and it's-.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Aren't we?

SCARBOROUGH: And, and until your book came out, this was something we were not allowed to speak about.

MICHAEL WOLFF: Now, it is, it’s, the, o-, okay. So the we, it's understanding the we. We're still in the s-, in the same structure. Remember, we began this whole, uh, this -- when, when Trump was elected president, what the media say: We don't wanna normalize this guy. Well, in fact, they did normalize him, and they normalized these, this, um, you know, this, uh, this, these hand grenade stories every day so you forgot what happened the next day. And they also normalized the entire structure of, of, of, of how you report on the president, which is that you can't say, you can’t say what you know or all that you know, because you have to go back the next day. So I'm the only one—not the only one—I am in the position of being the guy who didn't have to say, didn’t say anything.

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

WOLFF: Kept my mouth shut for, for, um, the better part of a year,-

MIKE BARNICLE: And listen-.

WOLFF: -and, and listen, I was just the black hole, just listening to everything.

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

WOLFF: And then I could say it ‘cause I'm not going back.

SCARBOROUGH: B-, b-, by the way, i-, i-, which, which is important to say. If you're Maggie Haberman at the Times, who has a,-

BRZEZINSKI: [softly] Not too bad.

SCARBOROUGH: -who,-

WOLFF: Who does a great job,-

SCARBOROUGH: -who does a great job,-

WOLFF: -an absolutely great job, but she has to go back.

SCARBOROUGH: -but her life, like, what makes her a great reporter is—she’s got to balance two competing interests. She's gotta tell the truth about the Trump White House, but she's gotta go back the next day. Bob Costa—the same thing at The Washington Post. He’s gotta tell the truth about the White House, but he’s gotta go back the next day.

WOLFF: No, and that’s, this -- you know, I'm getting some incoming from the daily journalists who, who, who cover this,-

BRZEZINSKI: [agreeing] M-hm.

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

WOLFF: -because they see this in a daily journalism context instead of seeing this as a, as, as a book. A book is an entirely different thing. I am telling a story. I am pulling this together. I’m trying to,-

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah.

WOLFF: -I’m trying to put,-

BRZEZINSKI: [unintelligible] a little more.

WOLFF: -put the reader right where I was on the couch in the West Wing.

SCARBOROUGH: [interrupting] I, I, I do wanna say though, one thing and then go to break, Mika.

BRZEZINSKI: M-hm.

SCARBOROUGH: The, the, the, the, the crit-, the, the criticism of Michael's book, though, is that he doesn't get everything exactly right. That's what happens when you’re interview [sic] a thousand different people and everybody comes from their own version. There are things that people said to you about us and our show—not accurate! But, I certainly know when I read it, read it, I know which person you were talking to in the White House. So, it is, it’s a completely -- it’s, it’s not a front page story for The New York Times-

BRZEZINSKI: We’ll talk-.

SCARBOROUGH: -or The Washington Post. It's a, a, a much bigger picture.

BRZEZINSKI: We'll talk about whether that will arm his critics, uh, in Michael Wolff's, uh, to Mich-, Michael Wolff’s book when we come back.

(...)

7:44 AM

BRZEZINSKI: No, I have a question. Now you stand by. You just, you just back off, okay? So, we were talking before the break about, [laughing] um, some inaccuracies in the book, like -- but not comple-, like -- were you, first of all, in a rush to get this to print for a lot of reasons?

WOLFF: Well, yeah. I mean, this book was reported and written in less than a year.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, okay. So-.

WOLFF: So, you know, this is -- remember, this history is moving pretty fast.

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah.

BRZEZINSKI: So your, um, your, uh, kind of, critics here will, will have some material to work with. There's misspellings. I know, for example—I'll just speak to the part where we are characterized in it—and, um, there was a scene where Ivanka wanted to talk to Donald about women. And he kept saying: What? What? What? And then you say in the book that Ivanka shouted at him. It was actually me. I said: Donald, women! And I had to make an hourglass to show him women. That was the only way he could understand the word “woman.” And -- so, th-, there's inaccuracies like that, that I, I guess: Do you worry that your critics-?

WOLFF: [interrupting] Whi-, which point? I'm not, not even sure. Which, which, which point was that?

BRZEZINSKI: That was in the, at the lunch at the White House.

WOLFF: At, at, at the lunch.

SCARBOROUGH: But, but, you know, the, the, but, but, the bigger point is, those-.

BRZEZINSKI: Your critics run with that.

SCARBOROUGH: The, to the critics, yeah. They run with these little specific things, but getting, getting a part of a story wrong here or getting something else [unintelligible].

[Mika and Wolff jump in at same time]

BRZEZINSKI: But saying it’s important.

WOLFF: [interrupting] And some-, and sometimes, you know, you know, you're dependent on your sources there,-

BRZEZINSKI: Right.

WOLFF: -and sometimes your sources,-

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

WOLFF: -now, I don't wanna say who my source was in that particular-

BRZEZINSKI: Okay.

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

WOLFF: -thing, except that [trails off].

SCARBOROUGH: But sometimes the sources get it, yeah,-

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: -a little off.

BRZEZINSKI: Okay.

SCARBOROUGH: And by the way, it's, uh, yeah, um.

BRZEZINSKI: But the spirit of it is completely true.

WOLFF: [interrupting] You know, you know, there’s a lot -- so, so a lot of this stuff, I was not -- and I don't represent myself as, as being there.

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

WOLFF: You know, you have to -- you're, you’re, you’re dependent on, on the people who were there, on their memories. You have to sort their agenda. Um, it's a, it’s a fairly complicated undertaking, which, you know, I mean, that’s the job, and-.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: And by the way, and, and again, just again, to explain this sort of book and then let's, let’s move forward. But, Bob Woodward's been doing it for years where you talk to, you know, 200 people that work in a White House or around a White House, and everybody’s trying to spin Woodward and everybody’s trying to spin the version of events. And you do get though a bigger picture of what's going on there.

BRZEZINSKI: This is the Trump I know.

SCARBOROUGH: And what is the big picture that comes out of Fire and Fury? What's, what’s the big idea?

WOLFF: I mean, I think, I think the big idea is that, that these people -- you know, all White Houses are, are fraught places, um, but, but they're, they’re a, they’re a, they’re a whole. People who work for presidents, support a president, um, they're on his side. They're on his team. Um, they may not like the other people in the White House, but it's a, it’s a relatively coherent view at the end of the day.

SCARBOROUGH: For the most part, people that worked for Barack Obama loved Barack Obama.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, there is that.

SCARBOROUGH: People that worked for George W. Bush, you can still talk to them today-

BRZEZINSKI: Yes.

SCARBOROUGH: -and at times, they will start tearing up talking about what a good man he was. 41—the same thing.

BRZEZINSKI: Oh my gosh.

SCARBOROUGH: Bill Clinton—the same thing.

WOLFF: Totally.

BRZEZINSKI: Carter.

SCARBOROUGH: Completely opposite here -- to Carter of course.

WOLFF: Completely, completely opposite. Everybody in this White House, and I keep saying this, 100%, because it is 100%, of the people closest to the president, to, to the, to Donald Trump, believe that there is something wrong here, something, something fundamentally wrong, something that scares them. As a matter of fact, they went from -- if, if there was, if there was any reason they stay in the White House now, it's because they are scared. They believe they have a responsibility to the American people.

(...)

7:50 AM

MIKE BARNICLE: So, you use the word, uh, a few moments ago, few minutes ago, “unnerving” in terms of the composition of the White House and what's going on. And, if you read the book, the narrative within the book, there are many things that, I think we can agree, a lot of people have heard anecdotally prior to the publication. Uh, there's a lot of stuff in there that’s brand new and highly troubling to read. The White House staff itself, the support staff, important people in terms of who they support, the President of the United States. I came away with the impression that a number of them, maybe all of them, behave, in an odd way, like hostages, like inmates, like people, you know, trying to be released, trying to get away, but they can't get away.

WOLFF: You know, one of the, the, the eerie things -- so, I'm sitting on that, on that couch, and, you know, there's sort of, you know, them -- the appointments come up, and somebody's assistant will come out and, and, and get you to bring you back, and you're, you know, you’re -- I mean, I know all of these assistants at this point, and the-, and you would say: How’s it going? And they would never, ever respond. It was kind of like—oh, okay.

BRZEZINSKI: Ugh! That’s awful.

SCARBOROUGH: I’ll tell ya, I’ll tell ya, it's, it’s that-

BRZEZINSKI: Oh my god!

SCARBOROUGH: -Mika and I both, when we were reading the book for the first time, and we saw that it was poor Hope Hicks’s job to go in and summarize what we said for three hours. And we both just sat there, s-, and it was just, we’re like: Oh my god. Poor, poor woman. The worst job in the world.

BRZEZINSKI: I would just quit though.

WOLFF: And she was always in this kind of frenzy of, you know, what do I say? How do I do this?

SCARBOROUGH: [softly] Yeah.

WOLFF: Who do I talk to? How -- you know, I mean, that's,-

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah.

WOLFF: -‘cause, you know, remember, her job is to stand be-, y-, you know -- I mean, this, this book -- Donald Trump, as we've seen, is not happy with this book. But he doesn't know the, the, the -- most of what's in it, he doesn't know, because it hasn't been on television yet. And-.

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

BRZEZINSKI: He doesn't read.

WOLFF: And he doesn't read-

SCARBOROUGH: The post [unintelligible].

WOLFF: -and nobody has told him because nobody wants to tell him.

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, the post-literate, uh, president.

(...)

7:55 AM

SCARBOROUGH: Last question: Is Donald Trump fit to be president-

WOLFF: No.

SCARBOROUGH: -from everything you've seen?

WOLFF: No.

SCARBOROUGH: Why not?

[long pause]

WOLFF: You can’t-.

BARNICLE: Read the book.

WOLFF: Yeah, I mean, it's, the, it’s essentially what the s-, the story of the book is. But, but in, in, in brief, because -- you wanna know? Because he's only interested in -- not only is he only interested in just himself, he's just interested in his immediate gratification in this moment. There is nothing beyond that.

SCARBOROUGH: So, temperamentally aside, is he mentally fit to be President of the United States-

WOLFF: You know, I-.

SCARBOROUGH: -based on everything that you've heard from people who work with him day in and day out?

BRZEZINSKI: [starts talking over Joe] So, you feel like -- you know when you’re talking to someone, and you’re like: I’m concerned about this person. I think this person is mentally ill. Do you have concerns?

WOLFF: I -- every time you speak to him, you think: This is a wingnut. I mean, this is -- there is something really a-, a-, alarming in ways that you cannot even begin to describe. It's like you’re riveted to the seat.

(...)


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