Haberman: Wolff Creates A Narrative That Is Notionally True, "The Details Are Often Wrong"


Maggie Haberman, New York Times columnist and White House reporter, appeared on CNN's New Day Friday to talk about author Michael Wolff, his non-journalistic methods, and how he misreported events and quotes in his new book Fire and Fury.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN: All right, so President Trump is slamming this new behind- the-scenes book as phony and full of lies. And the accuracy of some of the author, Michael Wolff's, reporting is in question. So let's talk about that.

Joining us now is CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for "The New York Times," Maggie Haberman. Maggie has interviewed the president numerous times and her reporting is mentioned in the book.

Maggie, we also want to mention, you contributed to a new report about the Trump administration and the Russia inquiry, but we will get to all of that obstruction of justice talk at the top of the hour if you'll stick around. If we don't scare you away.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'll wait. I'll just do this one.

CUOMO: One drama at a time, if you please.

CAMEROTA: One drama, yes.


CAMEROTA: Don't rush us.

HABERMAN: OK. It's very early. We've got time.

CAMEROTA: Listen, you are a reporter with great sources in the White House and great access. So when you read Michael Wolff's book, do you believe it?

HABERMAN: I believe parts of it. And then there are other parts that are factually wrong. I mean the thing about Michael Wolff and his style, which apparently nobody in the White House appears to have done a cursory Google search on him and sort of what his M.O. is, but he believes in larger truths and narratives. So he creates a narrative that is notionally true, that's conceptually true. The details are often wrong. And I can -- I can see several places in the book that are wrong.

CAMEROTA: Such as -- I mean do you have any examples?

HABERMAN: So, for instance, I mean he in accurately describes a report in "The New York Times." He inaccurately characterizes a couple of incidents that took place early on in the administration. He gets basic details wrong.

CUOMO: Inaccurately reported that we reported the substance of the dossier.

HABERMAN: Correct. Correct. He inaccurate -- he described in the book Rupert Murdoch's quote, an expletive idiot about Trump. And then in his own column a day later it was expletive moron. So that's --

CAMEROTA: See, that's sloppy.


CAMEROTA: The stuff about the CNN dossier, that is public knowledge that CNN didn't publish the dossier.

HABERMAN: Right. Right.

CAMEROTA: He says they did. That's -- that's one -- one fact check away from getting it right.


CAMEROTA: But he doesn't do it.

HABERMAN: But he doesn't -- well, he doesn't do it and he also doesn't care. I mean in their -- Michael Wolff and Donald Trump are not dissimilar people, right? I mean there is a reason they knew each other before the president became the president. Wolff privately refers to him as Donald, not Trump or the president and so forth. And so there is some kind of a similar style there.

CUOMO: Well, the president says, I don't know the guy. I never let him in. I never talked to him. If that's not 100 percent true, and certainly shame on his team then for letting Wolff get the access. HABERMAN: No, it's more than -- it's more than not 100 percent true. It's a lot false. What they're hanging it on is this thing of we didn't -- they are frustrated, and I understand why, that Wolff is overstating the access he had to the president. That is true.

He spoke to the president by phone early on where the president called to complain about this piece by Glen Thrush in the -- that had the president in a bathrobe, which he was very upset about.

But then there was another time where -- you know, and the folks in the White House kept saying, that's all that happened. But yesterday I learned that Wolff was in the Oval Office at one point, walked in by one of Trump's aides, and the explanation was, well, that's not -- that was not for the book.


HABERMAN: And that's -- that's how they try to split it every single time. When you are writing a book, it is all for the book. And they did the thing that that world always does, which is try to have it both ways. They didn't make -- they didn't give him Trump repeatedly, but advisers close to the president made clear to other aides in the West Wing, you know, we want you to -- we want to play ball with him to a certain degree and so they did.

CAMEROTA: I heard it immediately in the president's tweet. I hear the language parsing immediately.

HABERMAN: Right. Right.

CAMEROTA: Let me read it for everybody.

I authorized zero access to White House. Actually turned him down many times for author of phony book. So, like, oh, you want to write a phony book? Then you get no access is what he's saying.

Here's the sentence. I never spoke to him for the book.

HABERMAN: Right. See, that's the thing.

CAMEROTA: Right. So he did speak to him.

HABERMAN: Right. He did speak to him. That's right.

CAMEROTA: But Michael Wolff didn't either say, this is going to be explicitly for the book --


CAMEROTA: But he spoke to him. And so now it's in the book.

HABERMAN: Well, and --

CAMEROTA: Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don't exist. Look at this guy's past and watch what happens to him and sloppy Steve. HABERMAN: This is like 70 -- this is like 70 of Trump's favorites all like thrown into one, you know, personal insults. Look at his past. There's always some -- look at his past or look at her past.

Look, Wolff did something weird in the book, which is Trump called him to complain about our story and Wolff describes it in the book as, he called a passing New York media acquaintance. I don't know why you don't just say he called this author.

CUOMO: Right.

HABERMAN: That's weird.

There are a couple of things like that that are weird. There are quotes that he puts in quote marks where he was, you know, told these things secondhand in many cases, and yet he went with it anyway and he didn't go check with the original source. That's how he chooses to do his reporting. That is fine. There -- that's his prerogative.

CAMEROTA: But that breaks with standard protocol of journalism, we should just mention.


CAMEROTA: I mean --

HABERMAN: Well, right -- right --

CAMEROTA: That's how he chooses to do it but that's not really how reporters do it.

CUOMO: Well, look, it depends.


CUOMO: These types of books that are access-driven books, it's not the same as when we're calling to bang out the facts of something that happened.

CAMEROTA: I agree. I didn't -- I agree with you. I agree.

HABERMAN: No, where he -- where he violates journalistic protocol is he has a history of telling people they're off the record.

CUOMO: Right.

HABERMAN: And not just with this book. This is going back to the Murdoch too and other books.

CUOMO: Right.

HABERMAN: And then -- and then disregarding that.

CUOMO: Right. Now he flips it the other way. He has a very long statement about this. You can read it for yourself --

HABERMAN: That's right.

CUOMO: Where he explains any irregularities in sourcing on the Trump people. That they didn't have protocols. They didn't have rules. They would say something was off the record and then repeat it to others. You know, they would say something was confidential, but then it would be widely known. He even uses the word somisdot (ph), which is an odd choice of words for him. It's a Russian protocol term of how dissidents got out information during the war years.


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