If you haven’t seen Michael Wolff on your TV screen at least once in the past two weeks, you might be living under an incredibly benevolent rock. With the release of his now-bestselling tell-all Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House making countless headlines, Wolff has appeared on show after show after show to promote it.
Wolff’s book is essentially a hardcover tabloid that has elements of truth but also has a ton of inaccuracies. From factual errors like mixing up lobbyist Mike Berman with reporter Mark Berman and writing that CNN published the Trump dossier when it was actually Buzzfeed, to the numerous juicy tidbits that have been refuted by the subjects of those stories, responsible readers will take everything Wolff wrote with a grain of salt.
Sadly, many in the media have accepted his book as gospel, likely because of their own personal animus for President Trump. Others acknowledge the discrepancies but don’t exactly hold Wolff’s feet to the fire when they sit down with him.
Then came Meghan McCain.
McCain, daughter of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), has made a name for herself in conservative media between her radio show and Fox News gig. Last fall, she claimed the vacant chair on The View that has been a revolving door for, let’s just say “not so liberal” women since Elisabeth Hasselback‘s 2013 departure. Nicolle Wallace, Candace Cameron-Bure, and Jedediah Bila all had brief tenures on the show for various reasons, but in the past few months, McCain has demonstrated she’s well-suited for the job.
Unlike many of her conservative predecessors on The View, McCain isn’t shy about what she has to say. And when you’re politically outnumbered by Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, and Sunny Hostin, it can be intimidating to make an argument. But she holds her own, even managing to school her co-hosts with class after they expressed over-the-top excitement over Brian Ross’s erroneous report last month. And she was willing to go toe-to-toe with Keith Olbermann about his nonsensical anti-Trump rhetoric.
But it wasn’t until Michael Wolff’s appearance on The View Wednesday that showed us why McCain is in a league of her own at that table.
She opened the second segment with the Fire and Fury author and began by questioning his credibility, listing The New York Times‘ Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Martin, David Brooks, and CNN’s Alisyn Camerota in her army of skeptics. She noted the likes of Katie Walsh, Tom Barrack, Tony Blair, and Anna Wintour have all refuted claims in his book (she clearly did her homework).
McCain asked Wolff how she could “trust some of these quotes” when several people who reportedly said them have also refuted them. Wolff dodged the question by pointing to the “other people who aren’t denying” what was written, which McCain acknowledged included Steve Bannon.
Then Wolff brought up a dinner he had with Bannon and the late Roger Ailes.
“Was that off the record?” McCain asked.
“That’s a good question,” Wolff responded. “But people questioned this and they said ‘How could I know this?’ There is no ‘I’ in this book. I don’t appear in this book for a very specific reason because it’s not about me. It’s about other people’s impressions of Donald Trump…”
In other words, Wolff was giving a BS answer. And McCain knew it.
“I’m just confused — were you friends with Steve Bannon and Roger Ailes beforehand and you were like ‘Come to my house for an off-the-record dinner’ and then you reported on it or was it on the record?” McCain pressed Wolff.
“This was actually an off-the-record dinner,” Wolff admitted.
“This is why people hate journalists, by the way,” McCain reacted. “It’s why I don’t believe in the concept of ‘off the record.’ This right here.”
Wolff then used Ailes’ death as an excuse to report on the on-the-record dinner and alleged that Bannon insisted that Wolff document that dinner since it was “part of history.”
Of all the interviews Wolff has given these past two weeks, no one was able to pin him down on such tough but important questions like McCain has done.
Now compare this to an interview Wolff recently did with MSNBC’s Katy Tur.
She too pointed out some of the book’s inaccuracies and those who denied various quotes in the book. Tur then asked him if he was going to release the tapes he claims he has from his interviews in order to “produce the evidence” of his reporting.
Then Wolff gave this astonishing answer (emphasis mine):
“Because I’m not in your business. I — my evidence is the book. Read the book. If it makes sense to you… If it rings true, it is true.“
Wolff is supposed to be a journalist and with a straight face said “if it rings true, it is true.” That’s not journalism. And if that were true, then any reader predisposed to hating Trump can read this book and hold up every word in it as truth simply because it “rings true” to their bias against this president.
And the worst part about this was that Tur just moved on! How on earth could she have let that slide?!? While Tur held a more challenging interview with Wolff than some of her colleagues (looking at you, Morning Joe), conservative pundit McCain showed more journalistic rigor in her brief exchange with the Fire and Fury author than news anchor Tur did in a lengthy interview.
In such a short span of time, Meghan McCain has brought rationality, heart, and even a bit of feistiness to The View. And her intense yet justified exchange with Wolff was something the rest of the media was apparently incapable of doing. While it’s too soon to tell if she’ll last as long on the show as View-vet Barbara Walters, McCain has already proven that she’s the MVP sitting at that table.