Author and Vanity Fair columnist Michael Wolff has been inescapable on the airwaves in recent days, ripping the Post, News Corp. and its chairman Rupert Murdoch to shreds for the Post's tasteless cartoon last week. Of course, Wolff has good reason to seek out the attention. His biography on Murdoch, which was published in December, has been a stunning failure: According to Bookscan, which tracks roughly 75% of the books sold in the U.S., The Man Who Owns the News has sold just over 15,000 copies since it was published in December, a far cry from what publisher Doubleday was expecting given he reportedly took home a $1 million advance and Doubleday indicated it would "start off" with a 100,000 print run. But while it's no surprise to see Wolff carry on about News Corp. (and his other pet obsession, the New York Times), it is a bit surprising to see Wolff invoking ethics and morals. Why, you ask? Perhaps because it's always a bit difficult to take an ethics lesson from a married man who carried on an affair with a woman nearly three decades his junior who also happened to be an intern at the magazine he writes for.
"It's like something out of a romance novel," Wolff writes in his book when he describes Murdoch's marriage to Wendi Deng. Wolff's extra-curricular activities seem to be ripped from the script for a late-night Cinemax movie. Several highly reliable sources tell us that the married, 55-year-old author carried on a lengthy affair with a 28-year-old writer, helped her land a job at Vanity Fair, and eventually hired her to work on his website Newser.com.
According to our sources, the woman in question, Victoria Floethe, was introduced to the Vanity Fair columnist by a friend of Wolff's, a writer who happened to be having an affair with Floethe himself at the time. This man, who is also married and who we'll call "Mark," had originally reached out to Wolff to see if he might be help Floethe find a job. Wolff certainly helped Floethe land a job—she joined Vanity Fair's research department—although much to Mark's chagrin, Wolff soon started dating Floethe himself. (Contacted by phone, Mark declined to comment, refusing to confirm or deny the story on the events in question.)
Just how much anyone at Vanity Fair knew about Wolff's relationship with Floethe is unclear. As a contributing writer, he only rarely makes appearances at the magazine's offices, so staffers would not have had an opportunity to see the two interact on a daily basis. But for whatever reason, Floethe didn't stay at Vanity Fair for very long. She later left the mag, although if her departure had anything to do with the romance, it didn't stop Wolff from signing her on as a staff writer at Newser.com, the news aggregation website that Wolff co-founded. Also unclear is how much Wolff's wife, Alison Anthoine, knew about the affair, although considering she's a divorce attorney, she would be better prepared than most to spot the signs. Wolff did not respond to a message. Floethe would only say the two were "great friends," and requested we contact Wolff for any additional information. She later called us back to deny the allegation. [Update: Wolff has responded and would only say there is "no truth" to the story.]
Perhaps the only good news about this sordid story is that although Wolff's gossipy biography about Rupert Murdoch hasn't been a big bestseller, he should have plenty of material if he ever decides to pen a gossipy autobiography. He can even recycle some of his own copy. A story of "domestic dramas, evident personal miscalculations, thoughtlessness, and immaturity" has a nice ring to it, no?