Michael Wolff (journalist)

Michael Wolff (born August 27, 1953)[1] is an American author, essayist, journalist, and a columnist and contributor to USA Today, The Hollywood Reporter, and the UK edition of GQ.[2] He has received two National Magazine Awards, a Mirror Award, and has authored seven books, including Burn Rate (1998) about his own dot-com company, and The Man Who Owns the News (2008), a biography of Rupert Murdoch. He co-founded the news aggregation website Newser and is a former editor of Adweek.

Michael Wolff
Wolff in 2009
Wolff in 2009
Born (1953-08-27) August 27, 1953 (age 67)
Paterson, New Jersey, U.S.
EducationVassar College
Columbia University (BA)
Notable worksBurn Rate
Fire and Fury
Notable awardsNational Magazine Award
Mirror Award

In January 2018, Wolff's book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House was published, containing unflattering descriptions of behavior by U.S. President Donald Trump, chaotic interactions among the White House senior staff, and derogatory comments about the Trump family by former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.[3] After being released on January 5, the book quickly became a New York Times number-one bestseller.[4]

Early lifeEdit

Michael Wolff was born in Paterson, New Jersey, the son of Lewis Allen Wolff (1920–1984),[5] an advertising professional, and Marguerite (Vanderwerf) "Van" Wolff (1925–2012)[6] a reporter for Paterson Evening News.[7][8] Wolff graduated from Montclair Academy (now Montclair Kimberley Academy) in 1971, where he was student council president in his senior year.[9] He attended Vassar College and transferred to Columbia University, from which he graduated in 1975.[10][11] While a student at Columbia, he worked for The New York Times as a copy boy.[12][13]



He published his first magazine article in the New York Times Magazine in 1974: a profile of Angela Atwood, a neighbor of his family who helped kidnap Patricia Hearst as a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army. Shortly afterward, he left the Times and became a contributing writer to the New Times, a bi-weekly news magazine started by Jon Larsen and George Hirsch. Wolff's first book was White Kids (1979), a collection of essays.


In 1991, Wolff launched Michael Wolff & Company, Inc., specializing in book-packaging. Its first project, Where We Stand, was a book with a companion PBS series. The company's next major project was creating one of the first guides to the Internet, albeit in book form. Net Guide was published by Random House.[14]

In the fall of 1998, Wolff published a book, Burn Rate, which recounted the details of the financing, positioning, personalities, and ultimate breakdown of Wolff's start-up Internet company, Wolff New Media. The book became a bestseller. In its review of Wolff's book Burn Rate, Brill's Content criticized Wolff for "apparent factual errors" and said that 13 people, including subjects he mentioned, complained that Wolff had "invented or changed quotes".[15]

In August 1998, Wolff was recruited by New York magazine to write a weekly column. Over the next six years, he wrote more than 300 columns [16] that included criticism of the entrepreneur Steven Brill, the media banker Steven Rattner, and the book publisher Judith Regan.[17][18][19]


Wolff at the 2008 Monaco Media Forum

Wolff was nominated for the National Magazine Award three times, winning twice.[20] His second National Magazine Award was for a series of columns he wrote from the media center in the Persian Gulf as the Iraq War started in 2003. His book, Autumn of the Moguls (2004),[21] which predicted the mainstream media crisis[clarification needed] that hit later in the decade, was based on many of his New York magazine columns.

In 2004, when New York magazine's owners, Primedia Inc., put the magazine up for sale, Wolff helped assemble a group of investors, including New York Daily News publisher Mortimer Zuckerman, to back him in acquiring the magazine.[22][23] Although the group believed it had made a successful bid, Primedia decided to sell the magazine to the investment banker Bruce Wasserstein.[24]

In a 2004 cover story for The New Republic, Michelle Cottle wrote that Wolff was "uninterested in the working press," preferring to focus on "the power players—the moguls" and was "fixated on culture, style, buzz, and money, money, money." She also noted that "the scenes in his columns aren’t recreated so much as created—springing from Wolff’s imagination rather than from actual knowledge of events," calling his writing "a whirlwind of flourishes and tangents and asides that often stray so far from the central point that you begin to wonder whether there is a central point."[25]

In 2005, Wolff joined Vanity Fair as its media columnist.[26][27] In 2007, with Patrick Spain, the founder of Hoover's, and Caroline Miller, the former editor-in-chief of New York magazine, he launched Newser, a news aggregator website.[28]

That year, he also wrote a biography of Rupert Murdoch, The Man Who Owns the News, based on more than 50 hours of conversation with Murdoch and extensive access to his business associates and his family. The book was published in 2008.[29][30] Beginning in mid-2008, Wolff briefly worked as a weekly columnist for The Industry Standard, an Internet trade magazine published by IDG.[31] David Carr, in a review Business Insider's Maxwell Tani described as "scathing" wrote that Wolff was "far less circumspect" than most other journalists.[32][29]


Wolff received a 2010 Mirror Award in the category Best Commentary: Traditional Media for his work in Vanity Fair.[33]

The Columbia Journalism Review criticized Wolff in 2010 for suggesting that The New York Times was aggressively covering the breaking News International phone hacking scandal as a way of attacking News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch.[relevant?][34]

In 2010, Wolff became editor of the advertising trade publication Adweek. He was asked to step down one year later, amid a disagreement as to "what this magazine should be".[35]

Fire and FuryEdit

In early January 2018, Wolff's book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House was published. Excerpts released before publication included unflattering descriptions of behavior by U.S. President Donald Trump, chaotic interactions among the White House senior staff, and derogatory comments about the Trump family by former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.[3] News of the book's imminent publication and its embarrassing depiction of Trump prompted Trump and his lawyer, Charles Harder, to issue on January 4, 2018 a cease and desist letter alleging false statements, defamation, and malice, and to threaten libel lawsuits against Wolff, his publisher Henry Holt and Company, and Bannon, an action that actually stimulated pre-launch book sales.[36][37] On January 8, Henry Holt's attorney, Elizabeth McNamara, responded to Harder's allegations with an assurance that no apology or retraction would be forthcoming, also noting that Harder's complaint cited no specific errors in Wolff's text.[38] John Sargent, the chief executive of Macmillan-Holt, informed the publisher's employees that "as citizens, we must demand that President Trump understand and abide by the First Amendment of our Constitution."[38]

According to other lawyers and a historian, threats of a lawsuit by Trump against a book author and publisher were unprecedented by a sitting president attempting to suppress freedom of speech protected by the U.S. First Amendment.[39][40] Before its release on January 5, the book and e-book reached number one both on Amazon.com and the Apple iBooks Store,[4] and by January 8, over one million books had been sold or ordered.[38]

Siege: Trump under FireEdit

Wolff's latest book, Siege: Trump Under Fire, was released on June 4, 2019. In it he claims that the Justice Department had drafted indictment documents against Trump in March 2018, accusing him of three criminal counts relating to interfering with a pending investigation and witness tampering. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reported to have sat on these draft indictments for a year before deciding that Justice Department policy would prevent such an indictment.[41] "The documents described do not exist," Mueller spokesman Peter Carr said, referring to the purported three-count charging document against Trump.[42]

Nikki Haley controversyEdit

While being interviewed during Fire and Fury's publicity tour Wolff said he was "absolutely sure" President Trump was having an affair and suggested on two occasions that his partner was Nikki Haley, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.[43][44] Haley denied Wolff's allegations, calling them "disgusting". Erik Wemple of The Washington Post said that Wolff was engaging in a "remarkable multimedia slime job".[45] The New York Post editorial board called Wolff's claim an "ugly, sexist rumor".[46] Bari Weiss in The New York Times said that Wolff was "gleefully" spreading "evidence-free detail".[47] On February 25, 2018, Wolff was interviewed by Ben Fordham on the Australian morning show Today, where he was asked about his claim that Trump was having an affair behind Melania Trump's back.[48] Wolff stated that he couldn't hear the question, prompting Fordham to repeat it and eventually asking "you're not hearing me, Mr. Wolff?" to which Wolff replied, "no, I'm not getting anything", before removing his ear piece and walking off the set.[49] Both Fordham and the Today show later tweeted a video that included the audio from the ear piece which revealed that the question could be heard.[50] Days earlier, after being pressed about the rumor in a college press tour interview, Wolff stated "I do not know if the president is having an affair" and added "this is the last thing I say about it".[51]



  1. ^ "Wolff, Michael, 1953–". id.loc.gov. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  2. ^ Conrad, Anna (December 20, 2017). ""author:Michael Wolff" search results". British GQ. Archived from the original on January 8, 2018. Retrieved January 7, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Hartmann, Margaret (January 4, 2018). "Trump Tries to Stop Publication of Wolff Book, Hits Bannon With Cease-and-Desist". New York. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Stelter, Brian (January 4, 2018). "Michael Wolff's Trump book hits #1 on Amazon, publisher speeds up rollout plan". CNNMoney.
  5. ^ U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935–2014, Ancestry
  6. ^ Wolff, Michael (May 20, 2012). "A Life Worth Ending". NYMag.com.
  7. ^ Presinzano, Jessica (January 6, 2018). "Michael Wolff: 5 things to know about the 'Fire and Fury' author". North Jersey.
  8. ^ "Marguerite Wolff Obituary". The Record/Herald News. September 20, 2012.
  9. ^ Oguss, Elizabeth; and Moss, Linda. "Michael Wolff, author of Trump book, graduated from private Montclair HS", Montclair Local, January 8, 2018. Accessed January 24, 2018. "Author Michael Wolff, whose controversial book stirred President Donald Trump to angrily tweet to defend his 'stable genius,' was president of his high school student council—and his high school was in Montclair. Wolff, who continues to defend the veracity of Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House, graduated from Montclair Academy in 1971."
  10. ^ Bronski, Peter (Winter 2011). "Media Moguls". Vassar, the Alumnae/i Quarterly. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  11. ^ ""FIRE AND FURY" AUTHOR MICHAEL WOLFF CC'75 SPARKS CONTROVERSY WITH WHITE HOUSE ACCOUNT". Columbia College Alumni Association. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  12. ^ Konviser, Bruce (January 5, 2018). "Michael Wolff: Who is the 'Fire and Fury' author?". Deutsche Welle.
  13. ^ Concha, Joe (January 5, 2018). "Who is 'Fire and Fury' author Michael Wolff?". The Hill.
  14. ^ ASIN 0440223903
  15. ^ "The Truth About Burn Rate". October 1998. Archived from the original on July 18, 2012.
  16. ^ Michael Wolff Archive – New York Magazine. Nymag.com. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  17. ^ Neyfakh, Leon (December 15, 2008). "Michael Wolff Wonders: Why's Judith Regan After the Spotlight Again?". The New York Observer. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  18. ^ Koblin, John (October 26, 2008). "Cold Case File: The Missing Daily News Steve Rattner Maureen White Story". The New York Observer. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  19. ^ Kurtz, Howard (May 30, 2001). "New York's Media Hound; Columnist Michael Wolff Stalks the Pack and Goes for the Throat". The Washington Post.
  20. ^ National Magazine Awards Archived September 2, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Cursor.org. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  21. ^ Wolff, Michael (September 16, 2004). Autumn of the Moguls: My Misadventures with the Titans, Poseurs, and Money Guys Who Mastered and Messed Up Big Media. Harper Business. ISBN 978-0-06-662110-4. Michael Wolff autumn of moguls.
  22. ^ Yglesias, Matthew. (October 23, 2003) "Who needs New York magazine?", Slate Magazine, Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  23. ^ Carr, David (December 15, 2003). "Bid for New York Magazine: A Dance of Money and Ego". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  24. ^ "Michael Wolff, On His Own (But Not Really)", Media Features – Media]. Women's Wear Daily (WWD), July 2, 2009). Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  25. ^ Cottle, Michelle (August 29, 2004). "Wolff Trapped". The New Republic.
  26. ^ Wolff, Michael (November 2009). "Big Bad Wolff". Vanity Fair. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  27. ^ Wolff, Michael (October 15, 2009). "Big Bad Wolff". The Hive | Vanity Fair.
  28. ^ "Can Michael Wolff's Newser colonize the news frontier?". Los Angeles Times blog. Archived from the original on May 9, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  29. ^ a b Carr, David (December 28, 2008). "Plowing Through the Door". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  30. ^ ASIN 0385526121
  31. ^ "The Industry Standard Announces Powerful Editorial Line-Up; Renowned Author Michael Wolff And Web Pioneer Carl Steadman To Pen Weekly Columns For IDG Weekly". Mmit.stc.sh.cn (April 15, 1998). Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  32. ^ "The writer of the explosive new book on Trump is getting eviscerated over its accuracy – and it's not the first time". Business Insider.
  33. ^ Alvarez, Alex (June 10, 2010). "The Mirror Awards: A Reflection On Media's Most Meta Awards Ceremony". Adweek.
  34. ^ Chittum, Ryan (September 7, 2010). "Michael Wolff's High Cynicism". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  35. ^ Peters, Jeremy W. (October 17, 2011). "Michael Wolff Steps Down as Editor of Adweek". New York Times.
  36. ^ Stelter, Brian (January 4, 2018). "President Trump tries to quash bombshell book". CNNMoney. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  37. ^ Canfield, Michael (January 4, 2018). "Michael Wolff Trump book defies cease and desist order, bumps up release to Friday". Entertainment. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  38. ^ a b c Alter, Alexandra (January 8, 2018). "Publisher Defied Trump to 'Defend the Principles of the First Amendment'". The New York Times. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  39. ^ Boutrous, Ted; Kidder, Teddy (January 4, 2018). "There's No Way Trump Can Stop Wolff From Publishing His Book". Politico Magazine: Law and Order. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  40. ^ Parker, Ashley; Dawsey, Josh (January 4, 2018). "Trump's effort to stop publication of scathing book is a break in precedent". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  41. ^ Elving, Ron (May 29, 2019). "Michael Wolff's New Trump Tell-All 'Siege,' Stars Steve Bannon And A Cast Of No-Names". NPR. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  42. ^ Helmore, Edward (May 28, 2019). "Mueller drew up obstruction indictment against Trump, Michael Wolff book says". The Guardian. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  43. ^ "An affair with Trump? Nikki Haley on 'disgusting' rumors and her rise to a top foreign policy role". Politico.
  44. ^ Sorkin, Amy Davidson (February 1, 2018). "Michael Wolff Gets Called Out for "Slurring" Nikki Haley". The New Yorker.
  45. ^ Wemple, Erik (February 27, 2018). "Michael Wolff should just apologize". Washington Post.
  46. ^ "'Fire And Fury' author's ugly smear of Nikki Haley". New York Post. January 27, 2018.
  47. ^ Weiss, Bari (2018). "The Slut-Shaming of Nikki Haley". The New York Times.
  48. ^ Osborne, Samuel (February 26, 2018). "Michael Wolff claims he can't hear TV interviewer's questions about Trump affair allegations". The Independent. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  49. ^ Kimmorley, Sarah (February 26, 2018). "'Fire and Fury' author Michael Wolff ended a live TV interview after question about his claims Trump is having an affair". businessinsider.com. Business Insider Australia. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  50. ^ Lanktree, Graham (February 26, 2018). "Michael Wolff Walks Out of Interview After Host Asks Him to Apologize to Donald Trump". Newsweek. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  51. ^ "Trump critic Michael Wolff scraps Dutch appearances after contentious interview". NL Times. February 23, 2018.

External linksEdit