The Washington Post threw cold water Wednesday on Michael Wolff's forthcoming book that includes scathing information on President Donald Trump from former chief strategist Steve Bannon, saying in one report "the second-guessing of Wolff's work has already begun."
"A provocateur and media polemicist, Wolff has a penchant for stirring up an argument and pushing the facts as far as they’ll go, and sometimes further than they can tolerate, according to his critics," Post media reporter Paul Farhi said in one report.
"He has been accused of not just recreating scenes in his books and columns, but of creating them wholesale."
Wolff's book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," was excerpted by The Guardian and New York magazine. He said it was based on 200 interviews, including with Trump, Bannon, and other White House staffers.
Bannon, for instance, described a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Trump campaign aides, and a Russian lawyer as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic."
He also said a "zero" percent chance existed that President Trump himself did not know of the meeting at the time.
President Trump immediately ripped his former top adviser as having "lost his mind" when he fired him last August.
However, Farhi noted: "Trump isn't exactly disputing Wolff's reporting, nor has Bannon backed down from them."
But key to the reports by Farhi and senior political reporter Aaron Blake is Wolff's anecdote that Trump did not know who former House Speaker John Boehner was.
Roger Ailes, a Trump campaign adviser and former Fox News chairman and CEO, had suggested Boehner as chief of staff.
"Never mind that Trump had golfed with Boehner in 2013 and mentioned him several times on the 2016 campaign trail," Blake said.
"Using the Donald Trump Factbase," Blake said he found the president mentioned Boehner, the Ohio Republican who retired in 2015 after a quarter-century on Capitol Hill, four times during the 2016 campaign: April 10, 2016; Nov. 30, 2015; Oct. 14, 2015; and Sept. 25, 2015.
"He also tweeted about him on Oct. 8, 2015, and Sept. 25, 2015 — that last date being when Boehner resigned as speaker during the 2016 campaign," Blake said.
Farhi noted quotes attributed to longtime Trump friend Thomas Barrack Jr. and former White House adviser Katie Walsh were denied or disputed.
He also reported Wolff's "reliability has been challenged before — over quotes, descriptions and general accounts he's provided in his many newspaper and magazine columns and in several books.
"Wolff has even acknowledged that he can be unreliable," Farhi noted, citing his comments from his 1997 book, "Burn Rate," about his years as an Internet entrepreneur.
"Wolff kept his bankers at bay by fabricating a story about his father-in-law having open-heart surgery," Farhi wrote.
Further, Wolff's reporting had been challenged as a media columnist for New York magazine, according to Farhi.
Blake said "Wolff has taken some of the most gossiped-about aspects of the Trump White House and put them forward as fact — often plainly stated fact without even anonymous sources cited.
"For whatever reason, Wolff seems to have arrived at a stunning amount of incredible conclusions that hundreds of dogged reporters from major newspapers haven't," Blake concluded.
"Whether that's because he had unprecedented access — Wolff says he had 'something like a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing' — or because his filter was just more relaxed than others, it's worth evaluating each claim individually and not just taking every salacious thing said about the White House as gospel."
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