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WHITE HOUSE — U.S. President Donald Trump lashed out at the media Friday as a provocative new book hit the stands portraying the first year of his presidency as one in shambles, and him as childlike and possibly in need of psychiatric help.
In a morning tweet, Trump did not mention author Michael Wolff or his sensational book Fire and Fury by name, but said “the Fake News Media (Mainstream) and this phony new book are hitting out at every new front imaginable.”
Wolff said Friday he stands by “absolutely everything” in the book. “One of the things we have to count on is that Donald Trump will attack. He will send lawyer’s letters. This is a 35-year history of how he approaches everything,” he told NBC’s Today show host Savannah Guthrie. “My credibility is being questioned by a man who has less credibility than perhaps anyone who has ever walked on Earth at this point.
“I will tell you the one description that everyone gave, everyone has in common: They all say he is like a child,” Wolff said on NBC. “And what they mean by that is, he has a need for immediate gratification. It is all about him.”
On Thursday, Trump denied granting Wolff access to the White House, and he planted a new nickname on his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who is quoted extensively in the book as making disparaging statements about his former boss and members of his family and inner circle.
Trump’s lawyers initially tried to block publication of the book, describing it as defamatory and libelous. That only added to the frenzy at bookstores where it was available early Friday, several days ahead of schedule. Long lines formed outside some Washington stores where the book went on sale at midnight.
Several independent sources have noted that author Wolff is known for publishing provocative material that has turned out to be unsubstantiated or disputed.
Veteran Washington reporter Mike Allen, in his widely-read Axios Newsletter, cautioned Friday “there are definitely parts of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” that are wrong, sloppy, or betray off-the-record confidence.”
Allen said, however, there are many things Wolff got right, “even in the eyes of White House officials who think some of the book’s scenes are fiction. His spot-on portrait of Trump as an emotionally erratic president, and the low opinion of him among some of those serving him.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders accused Wolff on Friday of fabricating quotes for the book.
“This is a guy who made up a lot of stories to try to sell books, and I think more and more people are starting to see that his facts just simply don’t add up,” Sanders told Fox News.
Sanders acknowledged that Trump had spoken with Wolff, but she said it was not for the book. “They spoke once by the phone for a few minutes, but it wasn’t about the book. They had a very short conversation, but he never interviewed the president about the book,” she said.
At Thursday’s White House press briefing, Sanders suggested the book has little interest outside Washington’s beltway, where politics is something of an obsession.
“Most people in the United States could “probably care less about a book full of lies,” she told a reporter, characterizing the book as “trash” and something “a fired employee wanted to peddle.”
Presidential scholar Dan Mahaffee of Washington’s Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress says the book controversy is taking on a cartoon-like character.
“Once the spin starts you get this cloud surrounding everything, and it becomes a media frenzy,” Mahaffee said in a VOA interview. “It reflects the arrival of a reality-TV mindset to American politics.”
Mahaffee said the constant cable TV coverage of the book has diverted attention from almost all other events in Washington, including some favorable to Trump and others the president might want to hide, such as Thursday’s move by the administration to vastly expand offshore drilling from the Atlantic to the Arctic oceans.
“In a normal environment, we’d be talking about how all the waters in the United States are open to oil drilling. Something that would be the top of every headline is overshadowed by this circus,” Mahaffee said.