PolitiFact, a web-based watchdog of sorts for political reporting — and hardly an entity that can be called a cover for the conservative movement — issued a scathing assessment of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” that no doubt will go far in solidifying the administration’s line that the book is nothing but claptrap and lies, through and through.
This is the same Tampa Bay Times-run PolitiFact that maintains a file on President Donald Trump that scores only 16 percent of his statements, to date, as “true” or “mostly true” — and 69 percent of his claims as “mostly false,” “false” or outright “pants on fire.”
In other words: PolitiFact doesn’t shy away from painting Trump in a poor light.
So with all that — there’s this: “Is [the book] accurate? Many details are simply wrong … A bigger problem with Fire and Fury, however, is that by any standard of sound journalism it has big problems with transparency and sourcing,” wrote Angie Drobnic Holan, for the site.
Some of the nittier and pickier errors PolitiFact found included Wolff’s reference to John Boehner’s resignation from his House speakership seat in 2011, when it was actually 2015; Wolff’s writing of Wilbur Ross as Trump’s choice for labor secretary, when it was really commerce; and Wolff’s misspelling of Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen’s name — which he put as Hillary.
“There are many typos, as well as wrong word choices (‘pubic’ instead of public; a dream ‘differed’ instead of deferred),” PolitiFact’s Holan wrote.
But it’s the themes and substance of the book that really rocked PolitiFact’s fact-finding boat.
In reference to a scene that Wolff reports as fact involving a nasty Steve Bannon barb thrown Ivanka Trump’s way, PolitiFact found: “How does Wolff know this scene happened? We don’t know. Was he there? It’s not clear. Did Bannon tell him? Did Ivanka Trump tell him? Did President Trump tell him? There’s no way to know, and many scenes in the book are like this.”
Moreover, Wolff’s resistance, post-publication, to detail his sources was met with a big PolitiFact frown.
“The fly-on-the-wall, you-are-here atmosphere that pervades Fire and Fury will undoubtedly sell books,” Holan writes. “But like other books before it … Fire and Fury hardly seems a move in the right direction for well-sourced, evidence-based journalism. Instead it’s a stew of mysteriously sourced dramatic scenes. The lack of sourcing is a problem because it means evidence is given a back seat to narrative oomph. It encourages people to suspend their critical thinking skills and follow their emotions into a pleasing narrative.”
And it’s a narrative that may have little to nothing to do with truth. Right? Right, says even PolitiFact. The conclusion?
Those who read Fire and Fury will find plenty of reason to hate Trump — and, lookie here, as the brouhaha in the Trump-hating media has shown, that’s in fact what has occurred.
It’s to PolitiFact’s credit that it didn’t jump on this easy pickin’ bandwagon that rolled across the White House lawn over the past few days.
And it’s to Trump’s credit that his insistence that Fire and Fury was little but smokescreen and nothingness seems supported, in least in part, by PolitiFact — by a media site that would no doubt sell this president’s negatives, if the book had indeed provided the substance.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley.
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