Bob Woodward tells Stephen Colbert how he got sources to talk for his book ‘Fear’
Legendary Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward appeared on CBS’s “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Monday, the night before his new book hit the shelves, to talk about how he reported out “Fear” and how he feels about being criticized by President Trump.
Taking a measured tone during the 20 televised minutes he appeared on the show, Woodward said it took a good amount of time — and patience — to secure the interviews and documents that he used for his book, which depicts the Trump White House as a byzantine, treacherous, often out-of-control operation.
“You don’t just Google them. You have lots of time, you need to be patient. You go to their house — ”
“Hide in the bushes,” Colbert quipped.
“No, and you knock,” Woodward said. “I remember going to one general’s house, he opened the door — we didn’t have an appointment, I was afraid I might get shot. And he looked at me and said, ‘Are you still doing this [expletive]?’ And he meant it. So I just did [a] poker face.”
Woodward said that in the CIA, agents are taught to “let the silence suck out the truth.”
“So I just be quiet, and people want to talk. He said, ‘Come on in,’ and I stayed for a couple of hours. It’s a way to say, ‘You’re important to this story, I take you seriously.’ ”
When Colbert asked if Woodward ever told sources he was going to write a story without the source’s perspective, Woodward said no.
“You say, ‘I’ve got all this information, and I want to get your perspective on it.’ You want to listen to everyone, you want to be patient, and then you want to go back, and then you want to get into their home,” Woodward said, as the audience laughed.
“And what you want to do is say, ‘Do you have any documents or notes?’ . . . and they say, ‘No, no, no.’ And about the third visit, they say, ‘Oh yeah, maybe I have something upstairs,’ and then they come downstairs with three boxes of documents. Documents and notes make it authentic.”
Woodward described the White House as a “beehive” and said that once he had information from one source, someone else would say something or give him a document to help him piece the story together.
When Colbert brought up the fact that some people in the Trump administration were portrayed as types of heroes, Woodward replied, “You get to know these people, and you realize they’re speaking from conscience because they are worried about Trump doing things. And so they steal papers off his desk. But Trump doesn’t remember.”
Colbert also asked Woodward what he thought about Trump and some of his top officials — including James Mattis and John Kelly, who were quoted in the book — disparaging the new book. Woodward, however, seemed to shrug the criticism off.
“These are people who are trying to survive and keep their job. I know other reporters who have heard things from those people and they heard the exact same thing, but it was off the record and they couldn’t use it.”
Woodward also said he wasn’t lying, despite the president’s accusations.
“I’m willing to put myself out here. I’ve done the work. This is the best reporting that I can do,” he said.
Colbert, who said he read every page of the book himself, also said he particularly loved the last line, in which Woodward said Trump lawyer John Dowd “knew he could not bring himself to say to the president, ‘you’re a [expletive] liar.”
“And that’s how you end the book,” Colbert said. “I think you buried the lead. That should be the title of the book.”