Author of “Fire and Fury” Michael Wolff speaks at virtual upper school event

Natalie Cosgrove

New York Times bestselling author and journalist Michael Wolff spoke in a Q&A webinar event for students planned by History Teacher Peter Sheehy Feb. 8. The event was open to students from all AP Government and Politics classes, Sheehy’s AP United States History classes and Chronicle writers. 

In 2018, Wolff published his bestselling book,  “Fire and Fury,” about his experience in the White House during the presidency of Donald Trump. According to Wolff, the book has about five million copies to date. Wolff spent seven months collecting information through interviews with staff . He described his journalistic writing process and backlash the book received because of his use of anonymous sources.

“[While writing] I am thinking: can I convey the experience in a way that the reader will not only understand the experience, but will have the experience, or as close to it as possible?” Wolff said. “So whether that is done with anonymous sources or not, I don’t really care. The point is, what is the best way to bring people to have the experience?”

Chronicle Editors-in-Chief Hannah Han ’21 and Ethan Lachman ’21 moderated the Q&A and interviewed Wolff about advancing as an “insider” in the journalistic world as he spent more time in the White House and writing books. Wolff said that he has always seen himself as an “outsider” because he does not commit to one journalistic institution.

Wolff answered questions about his experience in journalism

“In some sense I don’t even really see myself as a journalist, I see myself as a writer,” Wolff said. “I am interested in getting into situations which tell us some larger truth that tells us about the human experience.”

Joey Schoenberg ’22 said he enjoyed the presentation, specifically how Wolff explained that he had predicted in 2019, in a CNN interview that the Trump Administration would end in a “political meltdown.” 

“I thought that the talk today was very interesting hearing from a person who was really close to everything that was happening,” Schoenberg said. “A lot of the time you get information from second or third-hand places but this was more first-hand than anything.”

Hayley Rothbart ’21 also said she thought the webinar was thought-provoking and she is happy that online school has enabled her to be able to interact with relevant speakers who she may not have otherwise been able to. She said that she thought it was interesting to see someone who works in the political sphere, but is not a politician.

“I admire his confidence and how much he takes ownership of his actions and his publications,” Rothbart said. “I think that type of accountability and that type of honesty is something that we need in this world. He is ready to back up his words and I think that is something that I would like to be able to do too.”