National News

Michael Wolff defends Trump book in fiery CNN interview

Posted January 13, 2018 1:40 p.m. EST

— "Fire and Fury" author Michael Wolff defended his controversial best-seller about the Trump administration Saturday, accusing CNN's Michael Smerconish of "doing the work of the White House" when questioned about his methods of gaining access to the President and his team.

Smerconish pressed Wolff about his comments this week to NBC's Savannah Guthrie in which the writer admitted he had "certainly said whatever was necessary to get the story."

"What did that mean?" Smerconish asked.

"Well, I don't know," Wolff said initially, before going on to explain, "I did not say, 'You know I hate you and I'm opposed to you and good riddance to you, as much of the media has basically said. I went in and said actually what I believed, which was, 'Show me what you're doing, tell me what you want to do, let's see if this can work.' So I think that I projected to the White House an amount of honest openness."

Woolf insisted he had never misrepresented his objective or his feelings about President Donald Trump to get access.

The explosive book detailing White House chaos and incompetence has sparked a furor since its early release late last week. Trump attempted to halt the book's publication, threatening Wolff and publisher Henry Halt with a lawsuit.

Questions also have been raised over fact-checking procedures for the book and the use of unnamed sources.

"Did you tell them that your objective was to humanize the President? That nobody was doing that? That you personally liked the President? That you'd be able to change perceptions about the President and that you hoped to interview him in a relaxed state?" Smerconish asked Woolf.

"I probably said, 'Yes, that I wanted to humanize the President,' which I wanted to do," Wolff said.

"How much access did you have to the President? Were there any interviews at all for the book?" Smerconish continued.

"I have spent about three hours in one-on-one conversations with the President during the campaign, the transition and in the White House," Wolff said.

Smerconish challenged Wolff, citing an email chain he had seen that seemed to contradict the author.

"From the paper trail that I've seen ... it doesn't seem like there was any interview you were afforded for the book per se," he said.

Wolff responded angrily, accusing Smerconish of following in the administration's footsteps.

"The White House has been on a concerted attack on me since this book came out ... a totally incompetent attack, which so far has found a few typos and turned this book into the best-selling book in the world. But you are now doing the job of the White House," he told Smerconish.

As a fellow journalist, Smerconish said that he had found Wolff's methods "unusual."

"I know that when I write e-mails seeking interviews, my word choice is to say, I will treat the individual with dignity and respect. I never go so far as to say let me humanize, you know I like the person, I'm the one who can change the perceptions," he said.

But Wolff insisted that people should just read "Fire and Fury."

"I have written the book. You either like it or you don't like it. So far it quite seems that many, many, many, many people do like it, and it speaks to them," he said.