- Nikki Haley, the US’s ambassador to the United Nations, has been embroiled in a controversy over an unsubstantiated rumor she had an affair with President Donald Trump.
- The rumor began when Michael Wolff, the journalist who wrote an explosive tell-all book about Trump’s early days in the White House, suggested the president was having an affair.
- Readers assumed he was alluding to an affair with Haley, who has denied the rumors and called them “highly offensive” and “disgusting.”
Nikki Haley, the US’s ambassador to the United Nations, has been the subject of heated debate in recent days over flimsy rumors that she had an affair with President Donald Trump.
The controversy has been escalating for days but came to a head on Thursday morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when Mika Brzezinski threw Michael Wolff, the journalist at the heart of the rumors, off her show in the middle of an interview, saying he was “slurring” Haley.
Wolff teased a scandalous passage in his book
Wolff, who wrote the explosive and highly disputed tell-all book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” told HBO’s Bill Maher in mid-January, “There is something in the book that I was absolutely sure of, but it was so incendiary that I just didn’t have the ultimate proof.”
Wolff then responded affirmatively when Maher asked him whether it was “about a woman” and whether it was about someone Trump was “f—ing now.”
“You just have to read between the lines,” Wolff said. “It’s toward the end of the book.”
He added: “You’ll know it … When you hit that paragraph, you’re going to say, ‘Bingo.'”
Viewers and internet sleuths instantly began combing through the final chapters of the book, landing on a passage that read in part: “The president had been spending a notable amount of private time with Haley on Air Force One and was seen to be grooming her for a national political future.”
Others, however, pointed to a separate passage mentioning Hope Hicks, the White House communications director who got her start working in communications on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign:
“The relationship of the president and Hope Hicks, long tolerated as a quaint bond between the older man and a trustworthy young woman, began to be seen as anomalous and alarming. Completely devoted to accommodating him, she, his media facilitator, was the ultimate facilitator of unmediated behavior. His impulses and thoughts – unedited, unreviewed, unchallenged – not only passed through him, but, via Hicks, traveled out into the world without any other White House arbitration.”
Haley shot down the ‘disgusting’ rumor
About a week later, Haley, in an interview with Politico, called the rumor about her “highly offensive” and “disgusting.” She added that she had never been alone with Trump, let alone on Air Force One, or discussed her political future with him.
“But it goes to a bigger issue that we need to always be conscious of,” Haley said. “At every point in my life, I’ve noticed that if you speak your mind and you’re strong about it and you say what you believe, there is a small percentage of people that resent that and the way they deal with it is to try and throw arrows, lies or not.”
Haley received further backlash after she tweeted criticisms of a sketch at the Grammys on Sunday in which Hillary Clinton and several celebrities performed a dramatic reading of Wolff’s book.
I disagree. That part ruined the Grammys. Such a shame.
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) January 29, 2018
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.
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) January 29, 2018
Haley’s tweets drew the ire of some liberals and Trump critics who said she had expressed selective outrage against mixing entertainment and politics when Trump himself frequently blurs lines between the two.
But at this point, many had become enraged by the perceived hypocrisy among liberal feminists, saying they have long decried misogynistic rumors and attacks on Democratic women but did not spring en masse to the defense of Haley, a Republican.
Wolff argued that Haley ’embraced’ the controversy
Wolff, meanwhile, has done little to confirm or deny if Haley was indeed the subject of the rumor he started. Instead, he told theSkimm on Wednesday that he believed Haley had “embraced” the controversy.
“All she does is hammer on this fact,” he said. “I mean, if I were being accused of something – and I am not accusing her of anything – I mean, she hasn’t tried to avoid this, let’s say.”
Then on “Morning Joe” on Thursday, Brzezinski asked Wolff to explain why he triggered the rumor on Maher’s show without providing any evidence.
“I’m gonna go as far as to say that you might be having a fun time playing a little game dancing around this, but you’re slurring a woman,” Brzezinski said. “It’s disgraceful.”
“She has been accused of nothing,” Wolff replied. “She has decided to deny what she has not been accused of.”
“Are you kidding?” Brzezinski fired back. “You’re on the set of ‘Morning Joe.’ We don’t BS here.”
She added: “I’m sorry, this is awkward – you’re here on the set with us, but we’re done.”
The show then abruptly cut to a commercial break.
Eliza Relman contributed reporting.