Michael Wolff (journalist)

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Michael Wolff
Michael Wolff (cropped).jpg
Born (1953-08-27) August 27, 1953 (age 65)
Paterson, New Jersey, U.S.
Alma materColumbia University
Vassar College (BA)
Notable worksBurn Rate
Fire and Fury
Notable awardsNational Magazine Award
Mirror Award

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.

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 life[edit]

Michael Wolff was born in Paterson, New Jersey, the son of Lewis Allen Wolff (October 10, 1920 – February 18, 1984),[5] an advertising professional, and Marguerite (Vanderwerf) "Van" Wolff (November 7, 1925 – September 17, 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 Columbia University in New York City, and graduated from Vassar College in 1975.[10] While a student at Columbia, he worked for The New York Times as a copy boy.[11][12]



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.[13]

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".[14]

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 [15] that included criticism of the entrepreneur Steven Brill, the media banker Steven Rattner, and the book publisher Judith Regan.[16][17][18]


Wolff at the 2008 Monaco Media Forum

Wolff was nominated for the National Magazine Award three times, winning twice.[19] 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),[20] 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.[21][22] Although the group believed it had made a successful bid, Primedia decided to sell the magazine to the investment banker Bruce Wasserstein.[23]

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."[24]

In 2005, Wolff joined Vanity Fair as its media columnist.[25][26] 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.[27]

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.[28][29] Beginning in mid-2008, Wolff briefly worked as a weekly columnist for The Industry Standard, an Internet trade magazine published by IDG.[30] David Carr, in a review Business Insider's Maxwell Tani described as "scathing" wrote that Wolff was "far less circumspect" than most other journalists.[31][28]


Wolff received a 2010 Mirror Award in the category Best Commentary: Traditional Media for his work in Vanity Fair.[32]

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? ][33]

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".[34]

Fire and Fury[edit]

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.[35][36] 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.[37] 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."[37]

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.[38][39] 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.[37]

Nikki Haley controversy[edit]

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.[40][41] Haley denied Wolff's allegations, calling them "disgusting" and "absolutely not true". Erik Wemple of the Washington Post said that Wolff was engaging in a "remarkable multimedia slime job".[42] The New York Post editorial board called Wolff's claim an "ugly, sexist rumor".[43] Bari Weiss in The New York Times said that Wolff was "gleefully" spreading "evidence-free detail".[44] After several interviewers pressed him about the rumor, Wolff later said that "I do not know if the president is having an affair."[45][46]


  • White Kids. Simon & Schuster. 1979. ISBN 978-0-671-40001-9.
  • Where We Stand: Can America Make It in the Global Race for Wealth, Health, and Happiness?. Bantam Books. 1992. ISBN 978-0-553-08119-0.
  • Burn Rate: How I Survived the Gold Rush Years on the Internet. Simon & Schuster. 1998. ISBN 978-0-684-85621-6.
  • Autumn of the Moguls: My Misadventures With the Titans, Poseurs, and Money Guys Who Mastered and Messed Up Big Media. Collins. 2003. ISBN 978-0-06-662113-5.
  • The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch. Broadway Books. 2008. ISBN 978-0-385-52612-8.
  • Television Is the New Television: The Unexpected Triumph of Old Media In the Digital Age. Portfolio. 2015. ISBN 978-1-59184-813-4.
  • Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Henry Holt and Company. 2018. ISBN 978-1-250-15806-2.


  1. ^ "Wolff, Michael, 1953–". id.loc.gov. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  2. ^ Conrad, Anna (2017-12-20). ""author:Michael Wolff" search results". British GQ. Retrieved 2018-01-07.
  3. ^ a b Hartmann, Margaret (4 January 2018). "Trump Tries to Stop Publication of Wolff Book, Hits Bannon With Cease-and-Desist". New York. Retrieved 5 January 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 (6 January 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 6 January 2018.
  11. ^ Konviser, Bruce (5 January 2018). "Michael Wolff: Who is the 'Fire and Fury' author?". Deutsche Welle.
  12. ^ Concha, Joe (5 January 2018). "Who is 'Fire and Fury' author Michael Wolff?". The Hill.
  13. ^ ASIN 0440223903
  14. ^ "The Truth About Burn Rate". October 1998. Archived from the original on July 18, 2012.
  15. ^ Michael Wolff Archive – New York Magazine. Nymag.com. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  16. ^ Neyfakh, Leon (December 15, 2008). "Michael Wolff Wonders: Why's Judith Regan After the Spotlight Again?". The New York Observer. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Kurtz, Howard (May 30, 2001). "New York's Media Hound; Columnist Michael Wolff Stalks the Pack and Goes for the Throat". The Washington Post.
  19. ^ National Magazine Awards Archived September 2, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.. Cursor.org. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Yglesias, Matthew. (October 23, 2003) "Who needs New York magazine?", Slate Magazine, Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  22. ^ Carr, David (December 15, 2003). "Bid for New York Magazine: A Dance of Money and Ego". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  23. ^ "Michael Wolff, On His Own (But Not Really)", Media Features – Media]. Women's Wear Daily (WWD), July 2, 2009). Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  24. ^ Cottle, Michelle (August 29, 2004). "Wolff Trapped". The New Republic.
  25. ^ Wolff, Michael (November 20009). "Big Bad Wolff". Vanity Fair. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  26. ^ Wolff, Michael (October 15, 2009). "Big Bad Wolff". The Hive | Vanity Fair.
  27. ^ "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.
  28. ^ a b Carr, David (December 28, 2008). "Plowing Through the Door". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  29. ^ ASIN 0385526121
  30. ^ "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.
  31. ^ "The writer of the explosive new book on Trump is getting eviscerated over its accuracy — and it's not the first time". Business Insider.
  32. ^ Alvarez, Alex (June 10, 2010). "The Mirror Awards: A Reflection On Media's Most Meta Awards Ceremony". Adweek.
  33. ^ Chittum, Ryan (September 7, 2010). "Michael Wolff's High Cynicism". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  34. ^ Peters, Jeremy W. (October 17, 2011). "Michael Wolff Steps Down as Editor of Adweek". New York Times.
  35. ^ Stelter, Brian (4 January 2018). "President Trump tries to quash bombshell book". CNNMoney. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  36. ^ Canfield, Michael (4 January 2018). "Michael Wolff Trump book defies cease and desist order, bumps up release to Friday". Entertainment. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  37. ^ a b c Alter, Alexandra (8 January 2018). "Publisher Defied Trump to 'Defend the Principles of the First Amendment'". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  38. ^ Boutrous, Ted; Kidder, Teddy (4 January 2018). "There's No Way Trump Can Stop Wolff From Publishing His Book". Politico Magazine: Law and Order. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  39. ^ Parker, Ashley; Dawsey, Josh (4 January 2018). "Trump's effort to stop publication of scathing book is a break in precedent". The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  40. ^ "An affair with Trump? Nikki Haley on 'disgusting' rumors and her rise to a top foreign policy role". POLITICO.
  41. ^ Sorkin, Amy Davidson (1 February 2018). "Michael Wolff Gets Called Out for "Slurring" Nikki Haley". The New Yorker.
  42. ^ Wemple, Erik (27 February 2018). "Michael Wolff should just apologize". Washington Post.
  43. ^ "'Fire And Fury' author's ugly smear of Nikki Haley". New York Post. 27 January 2018.
  44. ^ Weiss, Bari (2018). "The Slut-Shaming of Nikki Haley". The New York Times.
  45. ^ "Trump critic Michael Wolff scraps Dutch appearances after contentious interview". NL Times. 23 February 2018.
  46. ^ "'Fire and Fury' author Michael Wolff ended a live TV interview after question about his claims Trump is having an affair". Business Insider.

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