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Bob Woodward’s Fear seems to minimize a scandal involving a major source.


Writing in the Daily Beast, Asawin Suebsaeng and Gideon Resnick note that Woodward’s blockbuster exposé of the Trump administration downplays at least one major White House scandal: the resignation of Rob Porter in February of 2018 after two of his ex-wives both claimed he physically abused them. The minimal treatment of this incident in Woodward’s Fear is quite notable because Porter is often quoted in the book.

“In Woodward’s account, the scandal is reduced to little more than a footnote,” Suebsaeng and Resnick report. “The Porter drama was one of the most explosive scandals to date in a White House that is constantly beset by turmoil. This makes its absence from the Woodward book, in which Porter is a central character, all the more conspicuous. In fact, Porter, Trump’s former White House staff secretary, comes off strikingly well in Fear (except to, perhaps, Trump’s loyalists and MAGA diehards), as one of the few supposed adults in the room.”

Many in Trump’s circle, including Trump himself, believe Porter was a major source for Woodward. Speaking to the Daily Beast, onetime Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo said, “And from my perspective, it is almost a metaphysical certitude that Rob Porter was a very big source for the book, especially if you look at how his own personal scandal was treated as a by-the-by and minimized.”

If Porter is the source then this illustrates one of the pitfalls of the type of access journalism Woodward practices. While it’s true that Porter and other insiders might have provided Woodward with invaluable testimony, their interviews came with a price, which is that journalism gets inflected from their vantage point.