The book that created a rift between President Trump and his former campaign chief executive and adviser Steve Bannon hit the shelves Friday morning, ahead of the original Tuesday release date, despite the president’s threat to block its publication.
Michael Wolff, author of Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House, told NPR’s Kelly McEvers that he “100 percent” stands behind his reporting, which the White House and some of the book’s subjects have sharply criticized.
The pushback and legal threats from the White House may have made the book even more popular. Wolff’s work went on sale at midnight in at least one Washington, D.C., bookstore and reportedly sold out in less than 20 minutes. It had already reached No. 1 on Amazon’s best-seller list.
Wolff’s book paints a portrait of a White House in disarray, with an incompetent Trump at the center.
“I think the two fundamental issues were that Donald Trump doesn’t read anything. Let me accent that — anything. Nothing,” Wolff told NPR. “If you’re working for the president of the United States, that’s an odd position because how do you get information to him? That’s already a major hurdle. But then there’s the second hurdle — that not only does he not read; he doesn’t listen. So it becomes from Day 1, the crisis of the presidency: You can’t tell him anything.”
Wolff detailed the unprecedented access he was given, describing how he “sat there, day after day, and talked to whoever was willing to talk to me and was a fly on the wall — or as Nora Ephron used to say, a wallflower at the orgy.”
Some of the people in the book have disputed certain quotes and information cited (Wolff’s past work has also been criticized), but he reiterated that he stands behind it.
“When you write a book like this, people regret what they said to me,” Wolff said. “What they say to any reporter who they relax with and they forget who they’re talking to, I have sympathy for that, and I think the natural response is to say, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t say it.’ But I will tell you, they said it.”
While Wolff’s book is supposed to be about Trump, comments made by now-former top aide Bannon have captured much of the media attention this week.
The book quotes Bannon describing a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower involving Donald Trump Jr., other Trump campaign aides and Russians as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
On Thursday night, in a tweet, Trump said he authorized “zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book!” and added that he “never spoke to him for book.” Trump went on: “Look at this guy’s past and watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve [Bannon]!”
The fallout from the book does seem to have damaged Bannon’s credibility with some former supporters, including Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire backer of Bannon’s website Breitbart News.