Bob Woodward has explained why he used anonymous sourcing in his bombshell new book about President Donald Trump’s White House, saying that reporters often have “no alternative” when it comes to reporting on the highest levels of power.
Appearing on The New York Times’ “Daily” podcast on Tuesday, Woodward said using unnamed sources is necessary “to get the real truth.”
Woodward said he was “confident” in the truth of his reporting.
“The sources are not anonymous to me,” he said. “I know exactly who they are.”
Woodward’s reporting on the Watergate scandal for The Washington Post lead to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Woodward said on Tuesday that he and fellow reporter Carl Bernstein turned to using unnamed sources then because otherwise “you can’t get the truth.”
“You won’t get the straight story from someone if you do it on the record,” Woodward said on “The Daily”. “You will get a press release version of events.”
Without allowing anonymity, he said, “we wouldn’t have got the most important stories about what Watergate was about.”
But Trump and his allies have sought to dismiss Woodward’s new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House“, based on its use of anonymous sourcing.
“The Woodward book is a Joke – just another assault against me, in a barrage of assaults, using now disproven unnamed and anonymous sources,” Trump tweeted on Monday.
Woodward said he was unbothered by Trump’s response: “He has a right to say what he wants. He has First Amendment rights. And I feel really comfortable with the picture I have presented and the evidence.”
He also revealed that officials who have decried the book’s contents in public have privately told him it’s accurate.
“After the information in ‘Fear’ started breaking last week, one key person who is in office called me and said: ‘Everyone knows what you said here is true, it’s 1000% correct’,” Woodward said.
He continued: “And then this person has said some public things that contradict that. And I am not happy, but I have a smile on my face because the truth in all of this is going to emerge. There’s too much evidence, too many witnesses.”
But Woodward also said he can understand why people are hesitant to trust unnamed sources. Having lots of documents and testimony is better, he said, “but you’re not going to get that” every time.
Woodward’s book opens with a note to readers that explains his process. In it, he writes that interviews were done on “deep background,” which means the person being interviewed said it could be used but that they could not be named.
Nearly all the interviews were recorded, he said, and he also obtained meeting notes, files, and documents, among other materials.