Michael Wolff Accuses Tony Judt of Fabricating Conversation with His Son in the New York Times


Infamous Newser-er and kinda-content stealer Vanity Fair-intern-sleeper-with-er media pundit Michael Wolff has accused Tony Judtthe controversial NYU professor currently dying of ALS — of fabricating a conversation with his son in this week’s New York Times. And what forms the basis of this accusation?

….the only way his 16-year son, who is identified as a student at the Dalton School (where students are known for their ambitions, and, often, political precociousness, but seldom for their advanced writing style), could have written his part would be for this to be an even weirder tale: He’d need to have been cloned. Or to have been systematically robbed of his own identity and will and to have had it replaced by the will and identity and prose style of a 62-year-old left-wing European intellectual.

Not that you need me to explain this, but essentially, Wolff’s accusing Tony Judt of making up the things his kid wrote for an article with him in the New York Times not with block-quotes, or some kind of tangible, irrefutable proof that Judt wrote these things for his kid, but the simple line of Michael Wolff Logic that follows the following line of reasoning:

1. Someone exceptionally smart has the chance to write for the New York Times.

2. Said exceptionally smart person used a conversation with his son — who he made an active participant in this conversation — for one of his New York Times columns.

3. The column is, like many of the other things Tony Judt writes, quite intelligent and interesting.

4. It must be bullshit.

There are any number of likely scenarios here, which include Judt helping his son articulate himself, Judt’s son actually being that articulate, Judt’s son reflecting his father’s sensibilities (as close fathers and sons sometimes tend to do, especially ones in which one of the participants in this conversation are dying of ALS), the editors of the New York Times helping both Judt and Judt’s son sound more articulate, and of course, Michael Wolff’s theory that “He’s made up his son’s part.” Again, the core of Wolff’s argument:


Any of us who are writers and who have had 16-year-olds know what happened here: In our well-intentioned efforts to encourage our progeny’s careers and to slip our words into their mouths, we sometime go too far (though usually in school assignments rather than the New York Times).


Besides reeking of gross parental insecurity, I’d like to refute this by noting that:

1. Michael Wolff didn’t call anyone for quote on this! Not Judt, not the Times, not anyone. It’s maybe worth nothing that this is the same guy who has screamed at me for not calling him for quote on a blog post and, ha, not reading his book for it, either. And he’s accusing Judt of fabrication, which in the Land of Journalism, is one of the Highest of High Crimes. Forget kicking a man when he’s down! How about laying into a guy in a fucking wheelchair who has little reason to make things up because he’s about to die?

2. I was probably more clear-eyed when I was 16 than I am now, and I can remember just how clear-eyed I was better than Michael Wolff can, because I’m closer to 16 than he is. I was probably a better writer, too. And I can remember that I could’ve written like that when I was 16 with some help from New York Times editors, too.

3. Wolff’s “tell” is in plain sight, as this — like so many of the other things Michael Wolff does — is just another shameless attempt to attract attention and drive up his pageviews: by accusing one of America’s foremost Israel critics who, again, is dying of ALS (and thus, can’t get up to beat the shit out of Wolff, as he’s probably entitled to here) of making up a conversation with his son in the New York Times that was printed on Father’s Day.

And here I’d tell you not to read Wolff and not to click on his site, but this is just another example of someone on the internet being shameless for traffic, so in that regard, it’s worth seeing. So you can know what it looks like from here on out.

Oh, and for the record, Tony and Daniel Judt’s piece was a solid Sunday read.

Generations in the Balance [NYT]

Tony Judt: Did He Make It Up? [Newser]

Previously: Does Michael Wolff Molest Goats? [Gawker]