On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert joked that all of author Michael Wolff’s many weekend TV appearances in support of his new Trump White House tell-all Fire And Fury have just been intended to promote Wolff’s Monday sit-down with him. And while Wolff has indeed been out in force hyping the Trump-infuriating release of his book, his appearance on The Late Show was still a good get for Colbert, who, as he put it in their interview, remains “deeply conflicted” about the simultaneously unsettling and ludicrous revelations therein. Citing his reactions as both a noted, Trump-bashing comedian and a genuinely horrified citizen, Colbert pressed Wolff about the veracity of his claims about Trump’s unstable mental state and the unending and dangerous dysfunction of Trump’s administration with a mix of hopeful schadenfreude, journalistic integrity, and queasy unease.
Wolff, who’s been defending himself from critics both in the news media and the White House (Trump spokes-lizard Stephen Miller called Fire And Fury “a garbage book by a garbage author”), parried Colbert’s repeated questions about his narrative approach and methods with a practiced caginess. When Colbert noted that Wolff’s stories of West Wing incompetence and presidential instability lack sourcing, Wolff’s response was that, in a White House where literally everyone involved had their own press agent and “everyone is lying in their own particular way,” he was forced to comb through multiple versions of the truth, “settling on a version of events” he believed to be true. Colbert also asked Wolff why he hasn’t released the many hours of recordings that would “slap down the attacks” from those like Miller who’ve accused him of simply making things up. “I’m not in the recording business,” dodged Wolff, “I’m in the writing business.”
Still, with former Trump advisor Steve Bannon already forced to backtrack on statements Wolff quotes in the book about, among other things, Donald Trump Jr.’s infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russian officials in the face of massive backlash from Trump (and, perhaps more important to Bannon, his right-wing billionaire backers in the Mercer family), there’s clearly plenty of fire in all the indifferently sourced smoke. As to the White House press corps’ inability or unwillingness to reveal the sort of insane details about Trump and the White House gang that can’t shoot straight, Wolff countered that, as someone uninterested in a continued presence in the press room, he isn’t beholden to the administration for continued access. “I’m the only person who was willing to say this because I’m the only one who doesn’t have to go back again,” explained Wolff. Considering Wolff’s earlier description of the attitude of the remaining Trump staffers as “two sides who would be each others’ assassins if they could be,” Colbert responded that it’s probably a good thing Wolff got all his dirt the first time around.