Alleged journalist Michael Wolff said in a recent interview he believes it is unnecessary to reach out to subjects before publication whenever he is "absolutely certain."
The New York Times pressed Wolff about several claims he makes in his new book about the Donald Trump administration, Siege: Trump Under Fire, noting that he "had little use for the usual fact-checking procedures valued by reporters at mainstream news outlets."
"You also write that Fox News provided questions ahead of time for its interview with Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court nomination fight. Did you ask Fox for comment?" the Times asked.
"No, but, again — it's a difference between an institutional reporter and a non-institutional reporter. I don't have to ask the silly questions," Wolff responded.
Wolff said that while his book went through a fact-checking period, it didn't include reaching out to some of the people he was making claims about. "I actually don't believe, if you know the answer, it is necessary to go through the motions of getting an answer that you are absolutely certain of," he said.
It is generally concerned highly unethical for journalists to publish a claim about an individual without first seeking their side of the story. But Wolff claimed he was not bound to those rules because he was not an "institutional" reporter. "For someone else, a book writer, I don't have to do that. When I know something is true, I don't have to go back and establish some kind of middle ground with whoever I'm writing about…"
Already, many of the subjects Wolff wrote about in the upcoming book have disputed his claims. Fox News told the Times Wolff's claim about providing questions was "fiction," and after The Guardian published an early chapter claiming that Robert Mueller drafted an indictment of Donald Trump, Mueller's spokesman responded simply "The documents described do not exist."
The controversies come after Wolff's first book about the Trump administration, Fire and Fury, was likewise attacked for errors and unproven claims. Wolff said in his own defense "if it rings true, it is true" and walked out of interviews when asked about some of his more dubious claims.