Fire and Fury: A Controversial Book on the Trump Administration

If you have been even remotely aware of recent news, you have probably heard about Michael Wolff’s most recent book release, Fire and Fury. Michael Wolff is an American author, essayist, columnist and contributor to USA Today. Known for his political commentary and often unpopular opinions, he wrote Fire and Fury as a passionate response to President Donald Trump’s election, campaign, and policies in the White House.


According to Michael Wolff, when he approached President Trump about writing a book based upon his presidency, Trump agreed to give him access to the White House because he appreciated Michael Wolff’s past work. Beginning in mid-2017, Wolff interviewed campaign staff of the Trump Administration, observed the happenings in the White House, and consulted with trusted members of the Republican Party. After conducting over 200 interviews with Trump and his associates, Michael Wolff began writing the first draft of what he was planning to title, “The Great Transition: The First 100 Days of the Trump Administration.” In the midst of writing, Wolff decided to name the book Fire and Fury, based on Trump’s conflicts with North Korea.


The contents of Fire and Fury range from the 2016 election to Trump’s use of Twitter. Some of the most shocking material in the book describes how almost no one on Trump’s presidential campaign team expected to win the 2016 election,  including Donald Trump himself (who reportedly did not want to win). After initially describing the pure shock of winning the election, Wolff continues to contextualize the interviews he had with members of Trump’s cabinet, and staff. Some of the most controversial quotes in the book were from Steve Bannon, former chief executive of the Trump campaign. These quotes ranged from insulting Ivanka and Melania Trump, to speaking of Trump’s relations with Russia as “treasonous”and “unpatriotic.” Arguably the chapter that inspired the most backlash was the editorial that Wolff wrote characterizing President Trump as “‘ignorant” and “frankly idiotic” in interviews.


The book was originally scheduled to officially go on sale on January 9, 2018. However, the publishers decided to move up the release date to January, 5, 2018 due to “unprecedented demand”, inspired by the excerpt of the book that was released by New York magazine on January 3.  As various other media companies took advantage of media surge, they began to release snippets from the book. Almost instantly after it went on sale, Fire and Fury climbed to number one on The New York Times Best Sellers List; within a week it  had become the fastest selling book in the publisher’s history, with over 700,000 copies shipped and 1.4 million orders.


While the American people were desperate for this content, the Trump Administration was not pleased with the outcome. On January 3rd, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, named the book “trashy tabloid fiction” and “filled with false and misleading accounts.” On January 4, the Trump Administration made claims expressing that they sought to stop the release of the book, sending a cease and desist letter to the author and publisher with the threat of a lawsuit. President Donald Trump denied many of the claims made in the book, referring to it as “a complete work of fiction.”


In terms of reviews, many critically acclaimed authors, critics and leaders in the entertainment industry discredited the book as “poorly written”  and “uninteresting.” In a Wall Street Journal Review, Barton Swaim explains that he sees the book as an “unverifiable, gossipy collection of every unseemly tidbit he could extract from murmuring White House staffers.”  He goes on to say that the book is “…written as though he were the omniscient narrator of a novel.” Even Michael D’Antonio of CNN discredited the book by stating that the it was “overrated and tabloidy prose.” On the other hand, some critics genuinely enjoyed it and saw it as a landmark book. A review by Mick Brown of The Telegraph explains that the book is “completely true to its subject.” London Evening Standard’s writer, David Sexton, states that the book is “destined to become the primary account of the first nine months of the Trump presidency.”


Despite one’s opinions on President Trump, the media surrounding him, or Michael Wolff and Fire and Fury, there is no denying that this book has had a remarkable impact on the general public. Be it outrage or inspiration, the book galvanized a plethora of reactions, encouraging further insight and analysis of what is actually going on inside the Oval Office.  


– Maggie Di Sanza


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