CANNES, France — Donald Trump’s spastic reaction to Michael Wolff’s controversial best-seller “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” helped the book sell millions of copies — and for that, Wolff is truly grateful.
“Once a day, I cast my eyes heavenward, and say, ‘Thank God for Donald Trump,'” said Wolff, speaking Monday at the Cannes Lions Festival of International Creativity, where he was interviewed by Jeff Goodby, co-founder and co-chairman of ad agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners.
Wolff also said the Washington press corps is jealous of his reportage for “Fire and Fury,” which is based on the time he spent in a fly-on-the-wall capacity in the West Wing during the first tumultuous months of the Trump presidency. The gossipy, unverified and unattributed details of “Fire and Fury” — which Trump tried to block from publication with a cease-and-desist threat — have drawn skeptics questioning some of the book’s accuracy.
“I asked no questions. In seven months I don’t think I asked a question beyond, ‘How’s it going?'” Wolff claimed. Traditional political reporters, he added, are “all very resentful that I got this story… and made all this money.”
Wolff also repeated his claim that Trump threatened to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading the probe into the Trump campaign’s Russian ties. He cited the New York Times’ scoops about Trump explicitly ordering the firing of Mueller, who is overseeing the probe into the campaign’s ties to Russia. But according to Wolff, “Every day he tried to fire Mueller. He did this constantly, to virtually everyone. So the Times story was not wrong, but the Times story missed that fact.”
Asked by Goodby about the prospect of Trump being removed from office, Wolff said, “If Mike Pence becomes president, the news media will go into a depression. He’s the most boring man in the world.”
“Fire and Fury” offers an account of the initial months of Trump’s administration, describing the White House as plagued with infighting and President Trump unable to focus on the demands of the job.
Post-publication, Wolff claimed in media appearances that an alleged extramarital affair by Trump he wrote about in “Fire and Fury” was with Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Wolff has since admitted he didn’t actually know if Trump was having an affair.
Trump himself directly attacked “Fire and Fury” and Wolff, writing on Twitter that the book was “full of lies, misrepresentations, and sources that don’t exist.” The president has routinely claimed that news he simply doesn’t like is false.
Wolff, speaking at Cannes Lions, said “Trump’s critique [of the book] is not a critique. It’s a reaction in the moment. It ultimately has no real meaning, no real purpose, no real foundation.”
Wolff claimed he hasn’t received any death threats over “Fire and Fury,” and indeed he says he “didn’t get any negative comments anywhere. It’s been this remarkable outpouring, people stopping me and hugging me on the street.” His (tongue in cheek?) explanation: Wolff has been banned from Fox News, after he wrote a book about Rupert Murdoch that the media mogul didn’t like, so “I think what happened is all the people who might have threatened me, they don’t even know this book exists.” (This, of course, coming just minutes after Wolff credited Trump’s reaction to the book with boosting sales.)
In the wake of the book’s controversy, Wolff has been regularly parodied on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” with Fred Armisen portraying the author as shrugging off dubiously sourced passages.
Endeavor Content has acquired film and TV rights to “Fire and Fury” with an eye toward turning it into a television series. Jay Roach (“Game Change”) has signed on to direct the 10-part project.