This is all a bit convoluted, so I’ll try my best to untwist it all.
In a video montage that aired Sunday evening during the Grammy Awards, celebrities took turns reading excerpts from New York journalist Michael Wolff’s factually challenged tell-all, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.
The video included failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton:
.@JohnLegend, @Cher, Hillary Clinton & more read excerpts from @MichaelWolffNYC's 'Fire and Fury' at the #GRAMMYs https://t.co/pp937Qnlwx pic.twitter.com/7qtcoGjvz6— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) January 29, 2018
Following the Fire and Fury montage, the Washington Post’s Anne Rumsey Gearan tweeted, “Hillary Clinton doing a dramatic reading of ‘Fire and Fury’ was worth waiting up for.”
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley begged to differ, responding bluntly, “I disagree. That part ruined the Grammys. Such a shame.”
“I have always loved the Grammys but to have artists read the Fire and Fury book killed it. Don't ruin great music with trash. Some of us love music without the politics thrown in it,” Haley added.
Such strong words. And with good reason. Along with being inaccurate and poorly copy-edited, Wolff’s book appears to insinuate that Haley has been sleeping with President Trump. To be clear, the author does not use Haley’s name in the book, nor has he accused her since of sleeping with the president. But the author has also done absolutely nothing to dispel the rumor, which he himself created by directing readers to a section of his book that mentions Haley specifically.
This lurid narrative has gotten big enough that Haley herself disputed it last week after she was questioned by a Politico reporter.
It makes sense, then, that the member of the Trump Cabinet who is now facing questions about whether she slept her way to the top would be aggravated to see celebrities publicly celebrate the origin of the rumor. It makes sense that this would be particularly annoying for her, considering that the same people who continue to give Wolff oxygen are the same people wearing “Time’s Up” and “MeToo” pins on their lapels.
It makes sense, that is, unless you’re aggressively trying to miss the point like CNN’s Cillizza and the Times’ Itzkoff.
“Being frustrated about a book is one thing. Urging musicians to take politics out of their music is another — and misses the point of music totally,” Cillizza wrote.
Speaking of missing the point, how did we lose sight of the fact that Haley’s remarks were made specifically in reference to Clinton’s appearances Sunday evening? Clinton is not an artist. We’re not talking about muzzling Woody Guthrie here. We’re talking about a glossy, overloaded award show featuring a sappy, wistful nod to a failed presidential candidate. We're talking about a political book that has given birth to a rumor alleging one of the highest-ranking women in the U.S. government slept her way to the top.
If it's any consolation to Cilliza, he can at least go to bed tonight knowing he didn't have the worst media response to this entire incident. That honor goes to Itzkoff, who fought hard Sunday evening and Monday morning to defend Wolff's tainted honor.
This is aggressive, weaponized ignorance.
except the book doesn't say that, anywhere— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) January 29, 2018
so she sees a book that doesn't make any such claim about her and then says she wants music without politics.— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) January 29, 2018
Wolff made a vague allegation on Bill Maher which others have interpreted to refer to specific people. There's no such charge in the book.— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) January 29, 2018
Amazing. Along with having the most obtuse media response to Haley's tweet, Itzkoff may also have just won the honor of being Wolff's top apologist. Such distinction.
Full disclosure: This author is a paid contributor with CNN/HLN.