Suskind defends book after White House attacks credibility

Ron Suskind, author of a new book that describes the Obama economic team as a sometimes-dysfunctional group learning on the fly in the midst of a financial crisis, defended his book against criticism from the White House Tuesday.

Among Suskind's more controversial passages are claims that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ignored a direct order from the president to draw up plans to dissolve Citigroup in the midst of the financial crisis.

Geithner dismissed the book Tuesday as an account full of "sad little stories" that bore "no resemblance to the reality" of the situation.

But Suskind said Tuesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that his reporting was well-documented, and that he had more than 700 hours of interview tape with former and current administration officials. The Pulitzer Prize winner contends that the administration was given a chance to refute the account before publication and that their responses were included in the book.

"Everyone was confronted with the key evidence that was in the book prior to publication," Suskind said. "As people read the book, their responses are clear and quite revealing."

Suskind quotes the president as acknowledging the flap with Geithner, although downplaying the extent to which he was upset, reportedly saying, "agitated may be too strong a word."

But Suskind believes Geithner intentionally avoided the president's order.

"The president got slow-walked, he got gamed by his advisers," Suskind said.

Suskind also stood by reports that women in the White House felt excluded from policy decisions. The Washington Post reported separately Tuesday morning that the president took steps to assure female staffers that he valued their input after repeated complaints.

Asked if he thought the White House was a hostile work environment for women, Suskind said that while he believes things have improved, that is the impression he has of the early Obama administration.

"I don't think it is certainly now. I think everyone agrees that during that very difficult period from '09 to '10 it was," Suskind said.

The author said that he thinks the White House pushed back so forcefully against his book because the administration believed he would go easy on them after writing books highly critical of the George W. Bush White House.

"The view was just that," Suskind said. "I'm not here playing one side or the other politically, I'm there to show what is."

White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed the account at a press briefing Monday, arguing the book was full of "very simple things" like dates and job titles that were incorrect. Suskind acknowledged that there were some factual errors in the book, but said many of them had already been corrected. Suskind argued that the administration was seizing on trivial inaccuracies to avoid discussing his central thesis of a president learning on the job.

"The White House has real stuff to respond to, and they don't want to respond to that," Suskind said. "There's a lot of people under a lot of pressure ... when this happens to a presidency, they always react dramatically."