Even Colbert Skeptical of Wolff’s Book: ‘How Much of It Should I Believe?’

In an interview with Trump-bashing author Michael Wolff on Monday’s CBS Late Show, aired early Tuesday morning, even left-wing comedian Stephen Colbert was skeptical of the truthfulness of the unsubstantiated tell-all book. The late-night host urged Wolff to release tape recordings of his discussions with White House staffers to address credibility problems.

Early in the exchange, Colbert challenged Wolff’s method for compiling the book’s salacious content: “Okay, well you said – in the forward of this you say – I want to get this right – you say – in your author’s note you say you eventually, after going through all your material, ‘settled on a version of events I believe to be true.’ What does that mean?”

 

 

Wolff tried to defend his deceptive tactics by accusing everyone in the Trump White House of being a liar: “It means it’s the Trump White House. Everybody is telling you different stories. Let’s put it this way – everybody is lying in their own particular way because that’s what you do in the Trump White House.”

He confessed that he “had to go and take whatever the event was, find as many people as I could, and then use my judgment.” Colbert followed up: “So it’s just a judgment call as to what stories to include and what stories not to include?” Wolff replied: “Yeah, I mean, well, what version of stories to include....I went to other people and thought, okay, I know these people well enough, I think I’m confident I’ve got it. Did I get it?”

Colbert pressed: “Who did you believe?” Wolff admitted: “It was a combination.”

The disappointed late-night host was left wondering whether to believe anything Wolff had written:

So how should I read it, though?...As a comedian, sure, I’d love all this to be true so I can make jokes about it, but as a citizen, I don’t want any of it to be I true. And you don’t have sourcing – at least not listed – for everything you’ve got in here. So how much of it should I believe?

The questionable author tried to reassure him: “...you should believe all of it. That’s the alarming thing, that this is all true.”

Colbert was unconvinced and demanded evidence:

But I do have to exercise some judgment. And you say you’ve got recordings of a lot of these interviews here. Why not release the recordings so you can slap down the character attacks against you by the White House?

Wolff dodged: “Because I’m not in the recording – I’m in the writing business.”

Later in the segment, Colbert wondered: “Anything when you were there that gave you hope, like, oh, they do this well?” Wolff ominously proclaimed: “Nothing. I mean, this is really – this is alarming in every way...” He then described how “I was like the sort of the, you know, come to me and tell me how – how horrible you feel about working here. I was the guy.”

Wolff concluded that he “never went in as a reporter” and was giving readers “the real story.”

When even harsh Trump critics like Colbert are unwilling to accept Wolff’s book as fact, perhaps it’s time for it to be labeled as fiction.

Here are relevant excerpts of the interview, aired early on the morning of January 9:

12:16 AM ET

(...)

STEPHEN COLBERT: Okay, well you said – in the forward of this you say – I want to get this right – you say – in your author’s note you say you eventually, after going through all your material, “settled on a version of events I believe to be true.” What does that mean?

MICHAEL WOLFF: It means it’s the Trump White House. Everybody is telling you different stories. Let’s put it this way – everybody is lying in their own particular way because that’s what you do in the Trump White House. So I had to go and take whatever the event was, find as many people as I could, and then use my judgment.

COLBERT: So it’s just a judgment call as to what stories to include and what stories not to include?

WOLFF: Yeah, I mean, well, what version of stories to include. In other words, there’s a story in the book between a – a fight between Steve Bannon and Hope Hicks. And they run down – they’re running down the halls of the West Wing into the Oval Office, and I got two pretty different accounts there from one side and from the other. So then I went to other people and thought, okay, I know these people well enough, I think I’m confident I’ve got it. Did I get it?

COLBERT: Who did you believe? Which one?

WOLFF: It was a combination. You have to believe neither of them in this situation. So some – you know, okay, this is the Hope side, and this sort of seems true. This is the Bannon side, this sort of seems true. Now, this is the Trump White House. So everybody – I mean, they would kill each other. You have two fundamental – these two sides who would be each other’s assassins if they could be. So, therefore, how do you get the truth out of – out of one side telling you one thing and one side telling you the other?  

COLBERT: But in this world that you were in, in the Trump White House, the actual existence of it is such a crazy thing that is so unbelievable. You know, two years ago, if you had said, “Look, I’m looking at the facts here and I'm going to say Donald Trump is going to be president,” we’d say, “You’re absolutely crazy, that’s not gonna happen.”  

WOLFF: A completely aberrant enterprise. So you go in there and you hear these events and you think, this is completely aberrant, and this is nature of this book. How do you put that into a narrative, into a story? How do you do it in such a way that it makes sense, that people can read this and say, “Okay, I have a pretty good – I’m pretty confident that I now have some understanding of what’s going on here”?

COLBERT: So how should I read it, though? Because I’m deeply conflicted when I read this because – it’s not that I’m not enjoying it, I am enjoying, but it’s not that it doesn’t upset me, it does upset me. So on a certain level I’m not enjoying it. As a comedian, sure, I’d love all this to be true so I can make jokes about it, but as a citizen, I don’t want any of it to be I true. And you don’t have sourcing – at least not listed – for everything you’ve got in here. So how much of it should I believe?

WOLFF: But this is what – you should believe all of it. That’s the alarming thing, that this is all true.

COLBERT: But I do have to exercise some judgment. And you say you’ve got recordings of a lot of these interviews here. Why not release the recordings so you can slap down the character attacks against you by the White House?

WOLFF: Because I’m not in the recording – I’m in the writing business. You gotta – you know, if you want to turn to a recording, there are television – these people are nothing but recorded. They’re on television all of the time. I’m offering something different. I’m offering – and this was totally mystifying to people in the White House – I’m offering a book.

[LAUGHTER]

You sit down, you read it page after page after page. Does the story – does this comport with what you already know? Does it make sense? Does it have an internal integrity in which you come away saying, “I think I understand this now”? That’s my job as the writer.

(...)

12:22 PM

COLBERT: Anything when you were there that gave you hope, like, oh, they do this well?

WOLFF: Hmm...

[LAUGHTER]

COLBERT: People have got to go to sleep after this.

WOLFF: Yeah.

[LAUGHTER]

Nothing. I mean, this is really – this is alarming in every way, to sit there and basically that’s what I did, I was like the sort of the, you know, come to me and tell me how – how horrible you feel about working here. I was the guy.

COLBERT: Wow, and just people would reach out to you because they needed somebody to talk to?

WOLFF: I think the truth is that they were talking to everybody. And that I’m –

COLBERT: But only you got the book.

WOLFF:  I'm the only person who was willing to say this because I’m the only person who doesn’t have to go back again. I mean, the whole –

[LAUGHTER]

COLBERT: I wouldn’t go back again if I were you.

[LAUGHTER]

WOLFF: I mean, all of the reporters in the press room and in the briefing room – and I was careful to stay away from there, I never went in as a reporter – they all have to show up there again and again and again every day.

COLBERT: Oh, I see.

WOLFF: I do not. So this is the real story.

COLBERT: Well, thank you for the book. I look forward to the tapes.


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