Earlier today, an interview with media critic Michael Wolff went up on The Guardian, in which Wolff essentially told an interviewer that News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch has taken steps to exercise a personal vendetta against him after the 2008 release of his book about Murdoch, The Man Who Owned the News. And that he used the New York Post to go after him in an insidious way! Except, well, he’s wrong.
The Post launched what Wolff believes was a major vendetta against him. It was motivated in part, he believes, by the anger of Col Allan, its editor, at the book’s portrayal of him as a hard-drinking newsroom bully. Page Six (the Post‘s gossip column) began a series of attacking pieces against Wolff, exposing an affair that Wolff was having with an intern 27 years younger than him, and then covering his eventual divorce. To get around tight Post rules on the evidence needed to run stories about extramarital relationships, Wolff claims the paper leaked the story to a website called Cityfile and then reported on that.
A few things here:
1. The Col Allan Theory Is Wrong. New York Post editor Col Allen’s rage, or penchant for drinking, or penchant for being a raging drunk was never a shocker to anyone, or something Allen ever really tried to hide. In fact, in 2007, New York Magazine ran a profile of Col Allen that may as well have been titled “That Time I Got Shitface Drunk With Col Allen” which, yes, was written by a longtime rival to the New York Post‘s gossip columnist, the New York Daily News‘ Lloyd Grove. It featured a bulldog with Allan’s head on it as the accompanying art. But it’s less preposterous to suggest that Murdoch would care enough to launch a gossip war against Wolff himself, so: Enter Col Allan. And what’s the Post say to The Guardian?
The New York Post had a one-word response to Wolff’s claims that its pursuit of his story was motivated by revenge: “Bullshit.”
That said, as we’ve learned, never put a sense of vengeance past a powerful mogul. So maybe Murdoch did call down an order or two. Even so…
2. The CityFile Theory Is Wrong.
Assuming Page Six had the story to begin with, and knew it was true, why go through the trouble of letting another publication have it first? They don’t need a legal shield if they knew the story (Wolff’s affair) to be fact, which it was. We gave CityFile editor Remy Stern — who now works at Gawker, who recently purchased CityFile — a call today:
Remy, did the item on Michael Wolff you originally published come from Page Six, the New York Post, or anyone having anything to do with Rupert Murdoch?
I wasn’t surprised that they want after him. I’m sure they enjoyed the story and it was fun (for them), with him in such an embarrassing situation [given his book].
So, one more time: Rupert Murdoch or his homies did not, in fact, “blow up the celly” with this piece of gossip?
That makes perfect sense. Murdoch and I talk all the time.
We’ll take that as a no. Remy also noted that he did speak to a Post editor later who complained to him that they hadn’t received the story first.
3. The “Small Pickings” Mentality’s a Joke.
Quote Michael Wolff:
“I am probably the least famous person whose acts of adultery have been written about in the New York Post.“
Doubtful. If anything, it’s disingenuous. Wolff’s never been afraid to throw down on some Real Talk, whether it’s in his Vanity Fair column, his books, or on his news aggregation website, Newser. Or in his various TV appearances. And since when has being “small time” ever amounted to a defense of anybody being reported on?
The bottom line is that all this conspiracy mongering doesn’t exactly hold water. Why ask after it? Because surely, a guy with Murdoch’s power is capable of far more interesting things than planting a gossip war against Michael Wolff. Why waste your time with the small stuff when you can actually get empirical evidence of what an asshole a mogul who hates you is? For reference, this is how it’s done. Also, next time, you should just remember to gift Murdoch for his birthday. It’s kept him off our backs.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 10, 2010