While she did grill Fire and Fury author Michael Wolff on his serious credibility issues during Friday’s exclusive Today show interview, NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie also provided the anti-Trump author with a platform to repeatedly hurl personal insults at the President. Wolff claimed that senior White House officials thought Trump was a “child,” “moron,” and “idiot,” among other nasty labels.
“One of the overarching themes is that, according to your reporting, everyone around the President, senior advisers, family members, every single one of them questions his intelligence and fitness for office,” Guthrie announced while describing the book. Wolff eagerly doubled down: “Let me put a marker in the sand here. 100% of the people around him.”
Guthrie incredulously followed up: “Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, Ivanka Trump, question his fitness for office?” He smugly replied: “...certainly Jared and Ivanka...are putting everything on the President, ‘Not us, it’s him.’”
The host wondered: “And what are some of the ways the President was described to you by those closest to him?” Wolff asserted: “I will tell you, the one description that everyone gave, everyone has in common, they all say he is like a child. And what they mean by that is he has a need for immediate gratification. It’s all about him.”
Fishing for more insults, Guthrie asked: “You said these senior people insult his intelligence. What are the kinds of things people would say?” He was happy to oblige: “They say he’s a moron, an idiot.” Wolff then described a name-calling “competition” in the White House: “Actually, there’s a competition to sort of get to the bottom line here of who this man is. Let’s remember, this man does not read, does not listen.”
Guthrie then urged Wolff to elaborate on suggestions in the book that Trump was mentally ill: “One of the more disturbing observations you make in the book is that the President’s close advisers, people around him, have noticed him repeating stories, expression for expression you say, within a short period of time....And what’s the suggestion there?...what are you arguing there?” She cited one alleged instance: “You say, for example, that he was at Mar-a-Lago and didn’t recognize life-long friends.”
Wolff simply replied: “I will quote Steve Bannon: ‘He’s lost it.’”
Even after establishing Wolff’s lack of credibility, Guthrie still allowed him to repeat one unsubstantiated rumor after another to smear the President.
The biased exchange was brought to viewers by Tylenol, YMCA, and Aldi.
Here is a full transcript of the January 5 interview:
7:13 AM ET
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And Michael Wolff joins us now exclusively. Michael, good morning.
MICHAEL WOLFF: Thank you for having me.
GUTHRIE: The book is published as of 9:00 this morning. The President’s lawyer sent a cease and desist letter threatening legal action against you and the publisher. To which you say?
WOLFF: And they sent that yesterday, before they actually had read the book. But actually what I say is, where do I send the box of chocolates?
GUTHRIE: You think he’s helping you sell books?
WOLFF: Absolutely. I mean, and not only is he helping me sell books, but he’s helping me prove the point of the book. I mean, this is extraordinary that a President of the United States would try to stop the publication of a book. This doesn’t happen. Has not happened from other presidents. Would not even happen from a CEO of a mid-sized company.
GUTHRIE: Well, the President, obviously as you know, tweeted about you last night. He says, “I authorized zero access to the White House,” actually turned you down “many times.” Says he’d “never spoke” to you for the book, “It’s full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don't exist.” So as good a place to start as any, did you talk to the President?
MICHAEL WOLFF: What was I doing there if he didn’t want me to be there?
GUTHRIE: Well, let me ask you, did you talk to President? Did you interview him for this book?
WOLFF: I absolutely spoke to the President. Whether he realized it was an interview or not, I don’t know, but it certainly was not off the record.
GUTHRIE: And you spoke to him at the White House after he was sworn in?
WOLFF: I spoke to him after the Inauguration, yes. And I had spoken to – I mean, I’ve spent about three hours with the President over the course of the campaign and in the White House. So my window into Donald Trump is pretty significant. But even more to the point, I spent this – I spent – and this was really sort of the point of the book – I spoke to people who spoke to the President on a daily, sometimes minute-by-minute basis. So this book was really – I mean, in a sense, there was one question on my mind when I began this book: “What is it like to work with Donald Trump? How can you work with Donald Trump? And what is the – how do you feel, having worked with Donald Trump?
GUTHRIE: And I want to get to the substance which you’ve written in the book in a moment, but just to clear this up, because the President is saying it’s full of lies. That you didn’t have the access you said you had.
WOLFF: You know, I think we – one of the things we have to count on is that Donald Trump will attack, he will send lawyers’ letters. This is a 35-year history of how he approaches everything.
GUTHRIE: Do you have recordings of some of these interviews and some of these conversations?
WOLFF: Well, I work like every journalist works. So I have recordings, I have notes. I am certainly and absolutely in every way comfortable with everything I’ve reported in this book.
GUTHRIE: Would you release any of those recordings, since your credibility is being questioned?
WOLFF: My credibility is being questioned by a man who has less credibility than perhaps anyone who has ever walked on Earth at this point.
GUTHRIE: Before I leave it. I will say the President, the tweet alludes to, quote, “your past.” It says – I assume referring to a profile about you in 2004 in the New Republic. The reporter said of you, “The scenes in your writing aren’t recreated so much as created, springing from Wolf’s imagination rather than actual knowledge of the facts.”
WOLFF: I’ve written many books. I've written millions upon millions of words. I don’t think there has ever been one correction.
GUTHRIE: So you stand by everything in the book? Nothing made up?
WOLFF: Absolutely everything in the book.
GUTHRIE: Let’s talk about the book itself. Because one of the overarching themes is that, according to your reporting, everyone around the President, senior advisers, family members, every single one of them questions his intelligence and fitness for office.
WOLFF: Let me put a marker in the sand here. 100% of the people around him.
GUTHRIE: Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, Ivanka Trump, question his fitness for office?
WOLFF: Every time I – and I want to be careful about who I spoke to because the nature of this kind of book is you kind of grant everyone a veil. But having said that, certainly Jared and Ivanka in their current situation, which is in a deep legal quagmire, are putting everything on the President, “Not us, it’s him.”
GUTHRIE: And what are some of the ways the President was described to you by those closest to him?
WOLFF: You know, I will – I will tell you, the one description that everyone gave, everyone has in common, they all say he is like a child. And what they mean by that is he has a need for immediate gratification. It’s all about him. I mean, this letter for – the cease and desist letter. I mean I still have sources in the White House and I know everybody was going, “We should not be doing this. This is not smart.” And he just insists. He just has to be satisfied in the moment.
GUTHRIE: You said these senior people insult his intelligence. What are the kinds of things people would say?
WOLFF: They say he’s a moron, an idiot. Actually, there’s a competition to sort of get to the bottom line here of who this man is. Let’s remember, this man does not read, does not listen. So he’s like a – he’s like a pinball, just shooting off the sides.
GUTHRIE: One of the more disturbing observations you make in the book is that the President’s close advisers, people around him, have noticed him repeating stories, expression for expression you say, within a short period of time.
WOLFF: In a shortening period. So they’ve all tracked this. That it used to be – I know people would point out that in the beginning it was like every 25 or 30 minutes you would get the same three stories repeated. Now it’s the same three stories in every ten minutes.
GUTHRIE: And what’s the suggestion there? Because that goes beyond saying, “Okay, the President’s not an intellectual.” I mean, what’s – what are you arguing there? You say, for example, that he was at Mar-a-Lago and didn’t recognize life-long friends.
WOLFF: I will quote Steve Bannon: “He’s lost it.”
GUTHRIE: Let’s talk about Steve Bannon. Because here’s somebody who was on the record with you, made some pretty bold assertions, as you mentioned, has disparaged the President. And yet now, in the last couple days, says “He’s a great man and nothing can separate us.” What’s Bannon doing here?
WOLFF: Well, I want to make one – I mean, the President has tried to put this, “This book is about Steve Bannon.” So let me say very forthrightly, this book is not about Steve Bannon. This book is about Donald Trump.
As for Steve Bannon – and I spoke to Steve as I spoke to many people throughout the length of the reporting here – and really saw a transformation. Not only of Steve, but of everyone. But Steve, in a way is most vivid or his language is the most vivid. And the transformation was, you know, he thought this presidency was – could work, “We thought Donald Trump is an interesting unique character and we might be able to do something here.” And they saw him over that time come to the conclusion he cannot do this job.
GUTHRIE: I am out of time. But your former editor at Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter, said he wasn’t surprised you’d written this explosive book, he was surprised they let you in the door at the White House. Are you surprised?
WOLFF: You know, no. I’m a nice guy. I go in and –
GUTHRIE: Did you flatter your way in?
WOLFF: I certainly said what was ever necessary to get the story.
GUTHRIE: Michael Wolff, thank you for being here. Again, the book is called Fire and Fury. We should mention, Michael’s going to be Chuck Todd’s exclusive guest this Sunday on Meet the Press.