Despite a long history of going after conservative and Republican presidents, Bob Woodward wants you to know that there’s nothing “partisan” about his new book on the Trump administration, neutrally titled: Fear: Trump in the White House. Talking to Stephen Colbert on Monday’s Late Show, he sure sounded like part of the resistance: “We better wake up to what's really going on and people need to examine it, not just Republicans and Democrats.”
Under the cloak of journalistic arbiter, Woodward insisted: “But this is not partisan. I actually got accused once of being an ultra-centrist. Can you imagine that?” The journalist didn’t explain who used this description. In addition to Fear (about Trump), the author wrote State of Denial about George W. Bush.
Colbert quizzed Woodward on the fact that Trump officials, such as John Kelly and James Mattis, have denied the quotes in the book. The journalist shot back:
These are people who are trying to survive and keep their job. So, look, and I know other reporters who've heard things from those people and they heard the exact same thing. But it was off the record.
Yet, when asked about Trump calling him a liar, Woodward responded, “I’m not.” He then touted himself as a truth teller:
What is the contest in America other than the political contest? It's a contest for the truth, what is the truth, and I'm willing to put myself out here. I've done the work. This is the best reporting you can do. Or that I can do.
A transcript is below. Click “expand” to read more:
Late Show With Stephen Colbert
STEPHEN COLBERT: We're here with Bob Woodward, talking about his new book Fear: Trump in the White House. You have sources in here that tells you thing that Mattis, Dowd and Kelly have said, and all those people have denied that they said the things that you quote them as saying. What's your response to that?
BOB WOODWARD: One thing — and, look — these are people who are trying to survive and keep their job. So, look, and I know other reporters who've heard things from those people and they heard the exact same thing. But it was off the record, so they couldn't use it. And when I did the reporting for this book, no off the record. People would say, well, “I want this off the record.” “No, this has all got to be on deep background. I'm going to use it. I'm not going to say where it came from.” And, so, I think, in our business, at times, we are cheating the public. We learn things, secret things, off the record, we're part of the gang. And I think we have to kind of stop doing that and saying, let's use it in a way that we can tell the public.
COLBERT: So, it’s 19th book, you've covered nine presidents. You've seen a lot. Is what you've experienced covering the Trump White House, is that shocking to you?
COLBERT: What is most shocking?
WOODWARD: This taking of documents. This not realizing that the national security for the country comes from having trade relations, having security agreements, like NATO and secret intelligence partnerships. There's one scene last year in the Pentagon where Trump is there and everyone is saying – Secretary of State Tillerson has said, “This has what's kept the peace for 70 years.” He's historically right, but Trump does not want to do any of that stuff. He wants to do it his own way, in a dangerous way, and, at the end of that meeting, as reported first by NBC, which is accurate, the Secretary of State, after the President had left, said he's an F-ing moron.
[On Trump’s beliefs]
COLBERT: Gary Cohen says why do you believe the things you believe? And he says, “I don't know, I just have always believed them.”
WOODWARD: Yeah, that's right. And, in many of these cases, he's just wrong. And, you know, he'll find a few people who will agree. But, we better, sorry, we better wake up to what's really going on. and people need to examine it, not just Republicans and Democrats. But this is not partisan. I actually got accused once of being an ultra-centrist. Can you imagine that?
COLBERT: That's like wearing extra medium.
COLBERT: How do you feel when the president tweets about you? I think he's called you, what he said, “Woodward book is a scam. Don't talk the way I'm quoted. If I did, I would not have been elected president, this author uses every trick in the book to demean and belittle. I wish the people could see the real facts, and our country is doing great.” How do you feel when the President says you're lying?
WOODWARD: I'm not. And, you know, what — What is the contest in America other than the political contest? It's a contest for the truth, what is the truth, and I'm willing to put myself out here. I've done the work. This is the best reporting you can do. Or that I can do.