And yet another Fire and Fury revelation: Donald Trump thinks he’s really funny, was really proud of his 2015 appearance on NBC’s Saturday Night Live and was really stoked to appear at last year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Cooler – or perhaps just terrified – heads in the White House prevailed, and the president, as depicted by Wolff, reluctantly agreed to skip the event for rival gigs with more sympathetic audiences.
In an exclusive excerpt of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, published today in British GQ, the author provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Executive decision to skip last April’s Beltway nerd prom for visits and a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
“He wanted to do it,” writes Woolf. “He was certain that the power of his charm was greater than the rancour that he bore this audience – or that they bore him.” Trump’s 2015 SNL appearance had been, in his own opinion, a smash, even though he had refused to rehearse, insisting that he’d simply “improvise.”
“Comedians,” writes Woolf, “don’t actually improvise, he was told; it’s all scripted and rehearsed. But this counsel had only marginal effect.”
Despite the president’s desire to dazzle the White House press corps, his staff was “terrified that he would die up there in front of a seething and contemptuous audience. Though he could dish it out, often very harshly, no one thought he could take it. Still, the president seemed eager to appear at the event, if casual about it too…”
It was Steve Bannon, apparently, who steered Trump away from the stage. “Bannon pressed the symbolic point: the president should not be seen currying the favour of his enemies or trying to entertain them. The media was a much better whipping boy than it was a partner in crime. The Bannon principle, the steel stake in the ground, remained: don’t bend, don’t accommodate, don’t meet halfway. And in the end, rather than implying that Trump did not have the talent and wit to move this crowd, that was a much better way to persuade the president that he should not appear at the dinner.”
As Correspondents’ Dinner at the Washington Hilton got underway – on the 100th day of the Trump Administration – the president, along with Bannon, Stephen Miller, Reince Priebus, Hope Hicks and Kellyanne Conway, Mike Pence and his wife headed to Harrisburg, where Trump could do the rural bit and the staff could “keep the president’s mind off the fact that he was missing the dinner.”
But, the excerpt concludes, “the president kept wanting an update on the jokes.”