The media today: Michael Wolff’s book on Trump blows up in Steve Bannon’s face

New York media bad boy Michael Wolff threw a hand grenade into the Washington scene on Wednesday with a lengthy New York magazine excerpt from his new book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. One of the revelations: According to Wolff, not only did both Trump and his entire campaign team expect him to lose the presidential race, but the former reality TV host never really wanted to win in the first place.

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“As the campaign came to an end, Trump himself was sanguine. His ultimate goal, after all, had never been to win,” Wolff writes. “Not only would Trump not be president, almost everyone in the campaign agreed, he should probably not be.” When it looked as though victory was almost certain, “Don Jr. told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears — and not of joy.”

The book has already caused Trump to publicly disavow his former adviser, Breitbart News Chairman Steve Bannon, the man whom many assume was a key source for Wolff’s book. “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” the president said in a statement. Trump went on to say that Bannon “only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.”

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Trump’s ire was no doubt sparked by some of the explosive quotes and details Bannon provided the author, including one comment about a meeting Donald Trump Jr. and senior members of the Trump campaign had with a Russian lawyer offering the campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton, calling it “treasonous and unpatriotic.” For her part, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wolff’s book is “filled with false and misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House.”

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More on the Trump allegations and his all-out war with Bannon:

  • Number one with a bullet: CNN media reporter Brian Stelter says the Wolff book is already #1 on Amazon’s bestseller list despite the fact that it hasn’t been officially released. According to Stelter, New York magazine had to speed up the rollout of its exclusive excerpt after The Guardian got hold of a copy and ran excerpts.
  • Don Jr. on the hot seat: Bannon also reportedly told Wolff that the investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with the Russian government during the campaign will likely focus on money laundering, and the Breitbart chairman predicted: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”
  • But is it true? Wolff has been criticized in the past for taking a somewhat loose approach to facts, The Washington Post notes, and several people quoted in the book have already denied statements attributed to them, including Trump’s former Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh.
  • Murdoch not impressed: Among the other revelations in the book: Trump had three televisions installed in his private bedroom, has ordered staff not to touch his toothbrush, eats McDonald’s because he is afraid of being poisoned, and was once referred to by News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch as “a fucking idiot.”

 

Other notable stories:

  • Sources tell Page Six that new Today show host Hoda Kotb, who is replacing former host Matt Lauer, will make about $18 million less per year than her predecessor. Lauer, you may remember, departed the network after a number of former staff reported that he had sexually harassed them.
  • Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, former public editor at The New York Times, writes about how the Times often comes under fire for valid reasons. She said the paper allows “those at the top of government and business to seize its megaphone, sometimes while wearing the invisibility cloak of anonymity.”
  • BuzzFeed’s business editor, former New York Times editor Jennifer Kingson, has left the company, according to a report by Talking Biz News. The site has apparently decided to consolidate both its business and technology coverage under tech editor Mat Honan.
  • Digiday says some publishers who rely on traffic from Facebook are worried the social network may remove news from its so-called news feed completely, after the company tested a newsless news feed in several countries late last year. Some publishers found their traffic from Facebook fell by as much as 60 percent during the change in those countries.
  • According to a report in The New York Times, Google’s search algorithms appear to reinforce some conspiracy theories about issues like global warming by showing users ads that make fake or unsupported claims when they search for the term.

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Mathew Ingram is CJR's chief digital writer. Previously, he was a senior writer with Fortune magazine. He has written about the intersection between media and technology since the earliest days of the commercial internet. His writing has been published in The Washington Post and the Financial Times as well as Reuters and Bloomberg.