Author Michael Wolff slammed CNN host Brian Stelter on live air during Sunday’s broadcast of “Reliable Sources,” telling Stelter that he was a major part of the problem in the news media.
The segment was supposed to be about a new Trump book from Wolff but it quickly developed into a combative interview with Wolff repeatedly appearing to get the upper hand during arguments.
The first combative exchange happened early during the interview when Stelter appeared to take the side of Fox News in their statement about parts of Wolff’s book not being accurate. Wolff quickly pointed out how Stelter’s show is largely dedicated to attacking Fox News and their credibility.
A few minutes later in the interview, Stelter suggested that the way that Wolff got access to the Trump White House was he came on CNN and bashed the network, which got Trump’s attention.
“But maybe that’s how it works sometimes, huh?” Stelter asked. “Is that how it works? That’s how you got access?”
“I think the media has done a terrible job on this, I think you yourself, um, you know, while you’re a nice guy, you know, you’re full of sanctimony,” Wolff responded. “Um, you know, you become part of, one of the parts of the problem of the media. You know, you come on here, and you have a um, um, ugh, you know, a monopoly on truth, you know, you know exactly how things are supposed to be done. You know, you are why one of the reasons people can’t stand the media, I’m sorry.”
“You’re cracking me up,” Stelter remarked.
“It’s your fault,” Wolff responded. “You know, don’t talk so much, listen more. You know, people have genuine problems with the media, the media doesn’t get the story right. The media exists in its own bubble.”
“Also, you’re incredibly repetitive. It’s week after week,” Wolff continued. “I mean, you’re the flip side of Donald Trump. You know, fake news and you say virtuous news.”
“No, we’re just figuring out what is real,” Stelter claimed.
“Well, figuring out what is real is not so easy and you know most people don’t want turn to Brian Stelter to tell us what’s real, I’m sorry,” Wolff responded.
“Well, then why did you bother coming on CNN a few times this week?” Stelter asked.
“You know, I’m a book salesman,” Wolff responded.
Michael Wolff: "You are the flip side of Donald Trump… most people don’t want to turn to Brian Stelter to tell us what’s real."
Stelter: "Then why did you bother coming on CNN a few times this week?"
Wolff: "You know, I’m a book salesman." pic.twitter.com/iIC8jMNyBT
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) July 18, 2021
BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: It is one of many, a bevy of Trump related books out right now. It has some of the most shocking details. So let’s bring in Michael Wolff for a conversation about what he learned about his trilogy of books involving the former president. Michael, I think you had to move up your publishing date, because other Trump books were coming out this month also. Was this sort of a gamesmanship thing where the publisher was trying to get yours out ahead of all your competitors?
MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR: You know, I’m not exactly sure the mechanics of the publishing business, they always seem opaque to me, but I think we were first and somebody else was first then there was a leap frogging and the end result is that we all came out on the same day, but the more the merrier, I say.
STELTER: The more the merrier. You report about Trump’s relationship with Fox News, and Fox News has come out and denied some of what you said. For example, you say Rupert Murdoch was involved in the election night decision to call Arizona for Biden. Now I’ve never heard such a thing, Fox denies that’s true. And your response was basically when we tweeted about it with each other, we kind of got into it on Twitter, you said, well, they’re liars, Fox is a bunch of liars. That’s your response. So here’s my question for you, if Rupert Murdoch hates Trump so much—
MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR: But, it is an interesting thing that week after week all you do is question Fox, question its veracity, question its honor question, etc, etc. But suddenly now you think that they might be–
STELTER: Well, I’ve never questioned the decision desk. I’ve never questioned the decision desk, the professionals who made the call.
WOLFF: –but even, let’s get go, let’s go back. Yeah, let’s go, let’s go back to that … the issue that began this, which is that I told the story of election night, them making the call about Arizona and then Bill Hemmer, before they made the call, the on air call, him calling the Trump election headquarters and telling them that they were going to make this call. Okay.
STELTER: And Fox denied that.
WOLFF: They denied this, and then you jumped in and said, you know, you had a headline that they denied this then, and the person they had called, was Jason Miller. And then I had suggested that somebody should call Jason Miller. You didn’t, but then The Washington Post did and Jason Miller said yes, it’s totally true and others heard this.
WOLFF: Then, just to point out, I said to you, well hey, you should probably acknowledge that and you wrote a thing but you buried that. So, you know, what can I say? This is the world we seem to be in. You want this to be true, and–
STELTER: What do I want to be true?
WOLFF: –and I’m pointing out it’s not true. You seem to want it to be true.
STELTER: Well, it’s this issue of Rupert Morduch making the decision. That’s what’s so shocking. If that’s true, that is such an egregious abuse of power by Fox News, that’s on the top-10 list for history. You know what I mean? If Bill Hemmer is calling the White House ahead of time? That’s an egregious ethical lapse.
WOLFF: Brian, Brian, give me a chance to talk. I’m the guest here. At any rate, the Rupert Murdoch thing is, is, I reported at that point, the decision desk got in touch with Lachlan Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch called his father, his father said, you know, to go with this report, obviously including quite a fetching obscenity’s directed at Trump. Now–
STELTER: So, something like ‘screw’em’ but even stronger?
STELTER: So, if Rupert said ‘screw’em’ then–
WOLFF: –and how do I know this? How do I know this? I know this, just let me point out how I, I’ll give you the background here. I mean is that I am Rupert Murdoch’s biographer, I have certainly spent more time–
STELTER: One of many.
WOLFF: No, not one of many. That’s totally ridiculous, I am the singular biographer the singular biographer who was given–
STELTER: There’s lots of Rupert books–
WOLFF: –enormous access to him, I am well sourced throughout the company and throughout his family. So, therefore, I know that this happened. My sources are extraordinarily good and without a doubt on this point.
STELTER: Here’s what I wonder, you know, there are a lot of sources that say Rupert despises Trump, so why is Fox still so attached to him? Why do you think he hasn’t changed Fox’s editorial strategy? If anything, they’ve tripled down on Trump.
WOLFF: You know, because I think that there are two worlds going on here. There’s Rupert Murdoch’s world, which is all powerful, but it’s actually not quite all powerful because you have the Fox network has moved its business model, or the Fox News network, to an all Trump model. That’s where the money comes from, would Rupert Murdoch have an alternative to that that would supply that much money? Rupert hates Donald Trump, hates him. But Rupert loves money, those are two warring things.
STELTER: It’s that simple, Michael? That’s so sad.
WOLFF: Yeah, this has created enormous tension in the Murdoch family, people in the Murdoch family don’t speak to each other partly over the issue of Fox News and Donald Trump. One of the reasons that Murdoch sold most of the assets on his company is that his children could not come to any kind of agreement about who would ultimately run the company, partly because of this tension over Fox News.
STELTER: Yeah, this Fox and Trump problem. You’ve written now a trilogy of Trump books and my take away after reading all of them is, he’s incompetent, he’s ignorant, but he’s not a dictator, he’s not an authoritarian. Is that the right summary? That it’s really more farce than it is threat to democracy? Is that your takeaway?
WOLFF: Well, certainly my thesis is, there is no plan here, there is no strategy, and in some sense, it might be worse than we have ever thought because we just don’t even know how to think about this. That a crazy has managed to become the president of the United States. And, you know, you have this twisted psyche and this through the looking glass dysfunction in the White House and I think to date, no one really has been able to make sense of this to understand what this means for the future for democracy, for the media itself, because how do you, how do you in the media who are earnest to a fault, attentive to the workings of cause and effect, how do you write about someone who is, who has no idea what cause and effect is? Who doesn’t care? Who exists only in the moment.
STELTER: So, you’re suggesting he broke us, Michael?
WOLFF: It may well be.
STELTER: He broke the normal system of reporting? All the norms of, you know, how we think about politics, he broke them? He broke how we cover politics.
WOLFF: I think we would have to agree on that. Yes.
STELTER: Can I ask you about something four years ago, last time you were on the show? I think I know what you did. You came on Reliable Sources, this is like three weeks into the Trump presidency and Trump was brand new. And, you know, people were saying that, that he hated the media and the media hated him. And you came on, you called me ridiculous. And you bashed the media. And then the next day, Trump called you and you guys chatted for half an hour. And you were all friendly. And he said, ‘Come on, visit the White House, come hang out with me in the White House.’ Is that how you got in access? By coming on CNN and making fun of us? I’m just curious.
WOLFF: No, I mean, my agreement to go into the White House predated.
STELTER: Oh, but Trump did call you the next day and put it to you–
WOLFF: He did, he did, and that’s what Trump does, he has spent most of his administration seeing people on television and immediately calling them.
STELTER: But maybe that’s how it works sometimes, huh? Is that how it works? That’s how you got access?
WOLFF: Yeah, but I don’t want you to think that, that what I said at that point was in any way inauthentic. I think the media has done a terrible job on this, I think you yourself, um, you know, while you’re a nice guy, you know, you’re full of sanctimony. Um, you know, you become part of, one of the parts of the problem of the media. You know, you come on here, and you have a um, um, ugh, you know, a monopoly on truth, you know, you know exactly how things are supposed to be done. You know, you are why one of the reasons people can’t stand the media, I’m sorry.
STELTER: You’re cracking me up.
WOLFF: It’s your fault.
STELTER: It’s my, how, so, what should I do differently, Michael?
WOLFF: You know, don’t talk so much, listen more. You know, people have genuine problems with the media, the media doesn’t get the story, right. The media exists in its own bubble.
STELTER: That’s true. I agree.
WOLFF: You, you know, you got to stop me in that last segment that I just had to listen to, of all the people saying the same old stuff. Also, you’re incredibly repetitive. It’s week after week. I mean, you’re the flip side of Donald Trump. You know, fake news and you say virtuous news.
STELTER: No, we’re just figuring out what is real.
WOLFF: Well, figuring out what is real is not so easy and you know most people don’t want turn to Brian Stelter to tell us what’s real, I’m sorry.
STELTER: Well, then why did you bother coming on CNN a few times this week?
WOLFF: You know, I’m a book salesman.
STELTER: Michael, I love talking to you, I’m grateful you came on. And, I guess let’s do it again in four years.
WOLFF: See, ya.
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