Donald Trump

Trump Didn't Demand to Watch the Gorilla Channel, but He Did Fast-Forward Through the Exposition in Bloodsport

Sorting out truth from gossip and rumor in Michael Wolff's new book.

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Polaris/Newscom

Michael Wolff's new book on the Trump presidency, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, has generated a lot of attention and controversy recently, both for its apparent revelations about the chaos in the White House, and for the vague sourcing and hard-to-believe anecdotes. (Did Trump, who has tweeted repeatedly about John Boehner over the years, really not know who the former Speaker of the House was?)

The book has already sparked a feud between the president and his former adviser, Steve Bannon. And yesterday, Trump's legal team demanded that the publisher cease and desist publication. The publisher responded by releasing it four days early, and a number of journalists spent the evening pouring through the book, hunting for scoops.

Which led to tweets like this one getting passed around Twitter all evening:

It's a gag, of course, but what really makes it sharp is that it manages to be funny about both Trump and about Wolff's steely-toned, can-you-believe-this-happened style of reporting.

At the same time, the number of people who responded to this obviously ridiculous scenario by seeming to believe it has inadvertently highlighted the way that a certain type of Trump critic will believe nearly anything about him that they see being shared on Twitter.

Up to a certain point, I suppose you can almost see how someone might be fooled. After all, the following story about Trump from a 1997 New Yorker profile, told by a reporter joining Trump on his private plane, is apparently true:

We hadn't been airborne long when Trump decided to watch a movie. He'd brought along "Michael," a recent release, but twenty minutes after popping it into the VCR he got bored and switched to an old favorite, a Jean Claude Van Damme slugfest called "Bloodsport," which he pronounced "an incredible, fantastic movie." By assigning to his son the task of fast-forwarding through all the plot exposition—Trump's goal being "to get this two-hour movie down to forty-five minutes"—he eliminated any lulls between the nose hammering, kidney tenderizing, and shin whacking. When a beefy bad guy who was about to squish a normal-sized good guy received a crippling blow to the scrotum, I laughed. "Admit it, you're laughing!" Trump shouted. "You want to write that Donald Trump was loving this ridiculous Jean Claude Van Damme movie, but are you willing to put in there that you were loving it, too?"

(In fairness to the president, this is probably the optimal way to watch Bloodsport.)

My sense, based on the excerpts we've seen so far, is that Wolff's book probably relies in part on dubious gossip. Much of it, I suspect, is based in partial truth, or at least in things that Wolff was told, but that Wolff, who has a history of producing journalism that relies on synthesis and creative interpretation, did not always make an effort to fully verify. As Andrew Prokop writes, the book is probably "a collection of stuff Wolff heard"which is not the same as saying that it's entirely, strictly true.

At the same time, Wolff isn't just concocting stories out of whole cloth.

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He does appear to have been present for at least some of the events he describes. A private dinner with Steve Bannon and Roger Ailes that figures heavily into Wolff's excerpt in New York Magazine turns out to have taken place at Wolff's house. He had consistent access to top players in the White House. Wolff reportedly has hours of interviews on tape, and Steve Bannon has not disputed any of the incendiary quotes Wolff attributes to him.

And the basic picture that Wolff paints of a chaotic White House operation that revolves around a mercurial and easily distracted president who simply wasn't prepared for the role is one that has been described before, and confirmed by any number of more rigorous high-profile political journalists. For what it's worth, I consistently encounter the same impressions in my own conversations with others in Washington: People who work in Trump's orbit find it difficult to get him to focus or process information, and find him tempermentally unfit for the demands of the presidency.

So it would be a mistake, I think, to simply dismiss Wolff's book as a work of pure fiction or baseless speculation. Yet it's also worth approaching any individual story or event it describes with some amount of skepticism, unless independently corroborated or backed up with some sort of verification. The book is probably best understood primarily as a vividly written, impressionistic account, one that offers a true-enough sense of the inner workings of a uniquely disorganized White House along with some gossipy embellishments and hyperbole. It's a book, in other words, that's going to start a lot of arguments, but won't settle many of them.

In the meantime, whatever else happens, I hope some deep-pocketed media-startup investor realizes that a Gorilla Channel is actually a great idea. And maybe someday, if we're really lucky, we'll get a Trump-authorized cut of Bloodsport too.

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  1. Great, it’s all becoming TMZ, but for beltway politics.

    Will I believe Donald Trump’s jaw-dropping selfie?

    1. Hollywood for uggos.

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      1. I lost my ass on this crap. I don’t think your story is true. People don’t do this it is a rip off.

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  2. You can never have too many shitty writers.

  3. For me, personally, I prefer National Enquirer to Wolff, but I don’t want to seem Anti-Semetic.

    1. He’s not trying to seduce you so much as he’s waiting for what he put in your drink to kick in.

    2. “Who loves you, baby!”

      1. LOL!

        Also, GAH!!

    3. I expected something more apelike, but it’ll do.

    4. Like Telly Savalas and Dean Martin had a baby.

  4. I’m not saying that Peter is doing it. But you’ll be able to identify complete TDS if the person in question tries to insult Bloodsport. Because Bloodsport is a treasure.

    1. Hell, I’ve seen Kickboxer a couple of times and that flick is total shit compared to Bloodsport.

      I’ve watched both Gladiator and Braveheart using the rigorous guidelines of the Trump editing method. It works for a lot of movies.

      1. I bet that makes you “tempermentally unfit for the demands of the presidency” too. Sad 🙁

    2. Bloodsport is a treasure.

      Given that it also, indirectly, gave us the Mortal Kombay video games*, yes, I’m inclined to agree.

      *They wanted to make a video game based loosely on the movie where you play as Van-Damne’s character, but weren’t able to secure the rights for his likeness (or he wanted a ridiculous amount of money). So they said “fuck it, let’s just make an over the top gore fest fighting game.” That’s why the Johnny Cage character looks so much like Jean Claude Van-Damne’s Bloodsport character.

    3. Bloodsport created a dramatic shift in martial arts action movies that influenced a shit-ton of films for the next decade.

  5. a Jean Claude Van Damme slugfest called “Bloodsport,” which he pronounced “an incredible, fantastic movie.”

    Donald Gibbs’ third-best performance, imho.

    1. “I ain’t yer pal, dickface.”

  6. I hope some deep-pocketed media-startup investor realizes that a Gorilla Channel is actually a great idea.

    I’d rather watch an iguana vs snakes channel, tbqh.

    1. That one escape from the valley of snakes video was already too much for my weak heart.

    2. Gorilla week capped off with Gorilla-nado I, II, and III.

      It’s gold, Jerry, gold!

    3. Please, a hundred snakes couldn’t take down a baby iguana. What you want is a Mongoose vs Cobra Channel.

  7. For what it’s worth, I consistently cencounter the same impressions in my own conversations with others in Washington: People who work in Trump’s orbit find it difficult to get him to focus or process information, and tempermentally unfit for the demands of the presidency.

    As America continues to fall apart under the rule of this madman, I can at least sleep well at night knowing I voted for Hillary Clinton. Too bad many of the people posting here wasted their vote on Gary Johnson.

    1. dilly dilly!

    2. I could have written in St. Jerome and/or voted for Hillary Clinton and Hillary Clinton would have still lost, so there’s that. In fact, 100% of the people in my state could have voted for Hillary Clinton, and she’d have still lost.

      *takes deep breath*

      In fact, my state could have had 9000000% voter fraud for Hillary Clinton, casting 7 billion votes, and she would have still lost.

    3. Since Hillary also lost, I’d say that everyone who voted for her also wasted their votes.

      1. This. Plus since most people who voted for her didn’t vote for her but against Trump they also wasted any ‘message’ their vote might carry.

    4. Well my vote helped lp stay on the ballot in MD. What did your vote do? Help u sleep at night. Thats what whiskey and weed are for.

    5. Record high DOW, full employment and 3% growth is falling apart?

    6. Your father should have wasted you in a napkin

    7. “As America continues to fall apart under the rule of this madman, I can at least sleep well at night knowing I voted for Hillary Clinton. Too bad many of the people posting here wasted their vote on Gary Johnson.”

      It’s hard for me to see how Trump is helping the country to fall apart, rather than improving the situation. I put more of the blame on Congress and the establishment of both parties, whom Trump is up against. How exactly is Trump a “madman” if not a reflection of your TDS? And then your vote for Hillary was for worse IMHO, and wasted when a vote for Johnson at least tells the politicians what you want. An endorsement of Hillary, is an endorsement of selling 20% of our uranium reserves to Russia – not good.

  8. Not for nothing but that brown-haired chick standing behind Trump is the best piece-of-tail ev*h.

    1. You don’t even know her! She could be a Jill Stein voter!

  9. I believe the bedtime cheeseburger story. I believe the Bloodsport story. I believe the Gorilla Channel story. I believe that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election. I believe that the 2017 inauguration had the largest crowd of any inauguration ever. I believe that Donald Trump hired hookers to pee on a Russian hotel bed. I believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. I believe that illegal immigrants are responsible for a disproportionate amount of violent crime. I believe a badly bleeding Mika Brzezinski begged to sit at Trump’s table at New Years Eve.

    1. I believe that God has a plan for all of us
      I believe that plan involves me getting my own planet
      And I believe that the current President of the Church, Thomas Monson, speaks directly to God
      I am a Mormon!
      And, dang it, a Mormon just believes! (A Mormon just believes!)

      1. Thomas Monson, speaks directly to God

        Now that he’s dead, he just might.

        1. From his own planet, no less.

  10. It is basically Trump Dossier 2.0. Half-truths and fabrications used to give a targeted audience exactly what they want to hear.

      1. …and you’re hopin’

  11. If it’s his favorite, doesn’t that mean he already knew the plot of Bloodsport? Instead, he should have tried Sudden Death.

  12. Sorry, huge pet-peeve of mine.

    and a number of journalists spent the evening pouring through the book, hunting for scoops.

    Pore vs pour.

    1. You better tow the lion here.

    2. And what makes you think journalists don’t filter books through a scoop of alcohol?

  13. Combine the Russian pee party with the Trump WH bed sheets story and, viola, Trump is a bed wetter. Where’s my Pulitzer?

      1. Viola, voila, let’s call the whole thing off.

  14. When a beefy bad guy who was about to squish a normal-sized good guy received a crippling blow to the scrotum, I laughed.

    I did too. The scene was funny, in that over-the-top way.

  15. (Did Trump, who has tweeted repeatedly about John Boehner over the years, really not know who the former Speaker of the House was?)

    I can believe Trump didn’t know who somebody was talking about when they mentioned John Bayner – I can imagine Trump seriously thought his name was John Boner. If you ain’t talking about Trump, Trump ain’t listening.

    1. In fairness to Trump, truth in advertising laws should dictate it be pronounced “BONER.”

  16. I was on the White House tour, when, suddenly, Trump came running out of a door, wearing nothing but an adult diaper decorated with swasticas, sucking his thumb and crying about “the bad man saying nasty things.” Then he ducked back in through the door.

    Of course, the “lamestream” media and faux news won’t report on this. But I know he must be absolutely the craziest president we’ve ever had.

    1. Sounds like a President into some good ass sexual roleplay.

      1. I’d have a beer with that president.

        1. Trump doesn’t drink.

  17. I’m pretty optimistic that Peter meant to say reporters were poring over the book.

    1. More like whoring over the book, am I right, Hank?

      1. More like masturbating furiously over it?

        1. Together. In a circle. Through tears of joy.

    2. Of course he did. And I’m confident that he didn’t mean to write this sentence:

      Much of [it], I suspect, is based in partial truth, or at least in things that Wolff was told, but that Wolff, who has a history of producing journalism that relies on synthesis and creative interpretation, did not always make an effort to fully verify.

  18. YOU ARE NECKS!

  19. a chaotic White House operation that revolves around a mercurial and easily distracted president who simply wasn’t prepared for the role

    This is nearly the ideal.

  20. Why the hell would you read that thing? It’d be more beneficial to your brain to drink diesel fuel.

  21. (In fairness to the president, this is probably the optimal way to watch Bloodsport.)

    That’s the optimal way to watch any Van-Damne movie.

  22. A whole article on a parody with concerted effort to bleed it into the book that is roasting the Drumpf administration.

    Well done, reason.com. This makes it look like you are doing some fine journamalism

  23. Is my browser junk, or did Suderman pass up on alt-text gold with the Bloodsport pic?

    HUAUGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

  24. This is the book we all DESERVE. Now let’s go lock something up!

  25. The problem (which Suderman explains) is that a book written by a known bullshit artist is going to be easily denied by those wishing to deny and wholeheartedly believed by those out to get trump. If you want to take on the administration you have to ACTUALLY BE BETTER THAN THEM. Shitty fucking reporting by the “paper of record” amongst all the other so called fourth estate is perfectly undermining what they are attempting.

  26. This book is going to sell like hotcakes….if it was Trumps idea, I will have to admit he is a genius.

  27. I know this is at least the third comment to say so, but it’s “poring over the book,” not “pouring over the book.”

    1. “Poring through,” that is.

  28. It’s always amazing to me that someone claims someone else is stupid because they are foiling all your attempts to stop them.

    1. Great point and I agree. It’s a reflection of TDS.

  29. Fire and Fury is a popular stroke book for TDS sufferers

  30. Trump is destroying everything, the internet neutrality is all my life im working online and have a website https://www.programsdownloader.com to support porgrams & games free for everyone directly without breaking any copyrights.

    1. I thought Trump was supposed to support pogroms too.

  31. Unfortunately the truth is boring and doesn’t sell well. Sensational does sell well.

  32. Suderman totally misses the important points here IMHO. Wolfe is out to a) make a lot of money by telling a lot of people what they want to, or not, hear and b) help create an environment to impeach on mental health.

    The main point Suderman misses, is if there are a bunch of fake stories here (which is the case) this book is essentially fiction and as such, is really only of potential entertainment value and degrades real journalism. Which is a point Trump has accurately shown to be the case. Real journalists don’t pretend lies are true to sell their work, just yellow journalists. Real journalists don’t leave it up to the reader to decide which of their sentences are true and which are not.

    Wolfe just reinforces Trump’s comments about fake news and it not being good for the country. Those with TDS will believe it, while his supporters will rightfully disparage it.

  33. This column could be called a “Wolffing” piece. It will be read. It’s clever and cute. Oh, by the way, it contains a sucker punch. We all like that. In case you don’t recognize it…”the people I talk to agree that Trump is not tempermentally fit for the demands of the presidency”. According to who? You are a Wolffer being cute and making a dollar.

  34. “For what it’s worth, I consistently encounter the same impressions in my own conversations with others in Washington: People who work in Trump’s orbit find it difficult to get him to focus or process information, and find him tempermentally unfit for the demands of the presidency.”

    And yet, he beat the field in the Republican primaries, and won the general election. While being not merely outspent by a huge margin, but having the media openly against him, and the Republican establishment barely bothering to disguise their contempt for him. Oh, yeah, that looks like the achievement of somebody unable to focus or process information.

    He’s a guy who’s made a fortune off of being underestimated, and he walks into a city where everybody is desperately trying to seem more competent than they really are. You’re all the perfect marks, so far as he’s concerned.

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