Of all the things that destroyed onetime “porn lawyer” and now-convicted felon Michael Avenatti, the final factor may have been cable news. Avenatti, who rose to prominence as an anti-Trump lawyer, was once a ubiquitous presence on cable news, before being sentenced to 30 months in prison for a $25 million extortion scheme against Nike. (He still faces trials in California and Manhattan on additional charges that he stole millions more from his other clients, including pornstar Stormy Daniels.) The judge who handed down his sentence cited Avenatti’s belief that his fame put him above the law. “Mr. Avenatti had become drunk on the power of his platform, or what he perceived the power of his platform to be,” said Judge Paul Gardephe of the Southern District of New York in his ruling.
The media’s love affair was a mutual intoxication: Avenatti made 254 appearances on cable or network news between March 2018 and April of 2019. No fewer than 147 of those came between March 7 and May 15, 2018 — roughly two interviews a day. That includes 179 interviews in three months between March and June 2018, according to the Media Research Center: 121 on CNN, 108 on MSNBC, and 24 on the Big Three networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS). Often the interviewer spent much of the air time gushing over Avenatti, as when Joy Reid gushed, “He’s good.” In all, the media gave Michael Avenatti the equivalent of $175 million in free media (more specifically: $174,631,598.07), according to an analysis from The Washington Free Beacon.
Amid all that air time, reporters often made embarrassingly subservient or flattering comments to the ethically challenged porn attorney, seemingly fueling his self-destruction.
If Avenatti was drunk on media exposure, here are the bartenders who kept serving up the hair of the dog that bit him.
Brian Stelter: Avenatti is a serious contender for POTUS
Of all the people who fawned over Michael Avenatti, perhaps none did so more earnestly than Brian Stelter. The host invited the porn lawyer to address his potential presidential run on the September 16, 2018, episode of CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” Stelter introduced Avenatti as one of the Democratic Party’s “2020 hopefuls” and told him, “Looking ahead to 2020, one reason I’m taking you seriously as a contender is because of your presence on cable news.”
During a recent CSPAN interview, Stelter tried to downplay his role in building the abortive Avenatti-for-president boomlet as a “right-wing meme” that represents “the kind of 15-second moment on TV that gets snipped and clipped and shared and becomes a meme on right-wing media … and it becomes this attack point to make fun of people like me.”
“I almost forgot how to say Avenatti’s name, he’s been out of the news so long,” he quipped.
In reality, Stelter dedicated the full segment to Avenatti’s presidential aspirations. After elevating Avenatti to the status of a credible presidential candidate, Stelter invited him to address criticisms that he lacked experience and voiced his concern that “sometimes you fall into some Trumpian tactics.” Stelter closed their discussion by telling Avenatti, “I don’t think you seem that creepy, but that’s just me.”
Ana Navarro: ‘You are like the Holy Spirit’
CNN’s resident “Republican,” Ana Navarro, flirted with committing the unforgivable sin by comparing a porn lawyer to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. “Lately, to me, you are like the Holy Spirit. You are all places at all times. I see you all over cable news,” Navarro told Avenatti on ABC. She then offered Avenatti a seat as “a co-host here on ‘The View.’” Co-host Joy Behar closed the show by asking him if he planned to run for president in 2020.
The online media featuring everything from campaign habits to beauty tips
Numerous online news outlets, which consider themselves dreadfully serious and credible, hyped Avenatti’s potential presidential campaign and covered his beauty regimen. Politico posted an article from Bill Scher, a contributing editor to Politico Magazine, titled “Michael Avenatti Is Winning the 2020 Democratic Primary.”
Time Magazine predicted incorrectly, “Michael Avenatti’s Past Won’t Stop Him From Running in 2020.” After outlining his long history of personal, professional, and financial scandals, Time’s Molly Ball and Alana Abramson concluded, “He fights, and he wins: to many of the beleaguered party faithful, that may be enough.” Even Vanity Fair posted an article titled “Michael Avenatti on His Style and Skincare Routine: ‘I Own It.’”
Everyone who covered Julia Swetnick
Avenatti closed out a raucous 2018 advancing the baseless claims of Julia Swetnick that, before becoming a distinguished jurist and church volunteer, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was a serial gang rapist. Since the media lowered the bar by entertaining the unfounded allegations of Christine Blasey Ford, they had no grounds to fend off equally preposterous claims from Avenatti’s client.
“Is Avenatti’s ‘Gang Rape’ Bombshell the End of Brett Kavanaugh?” asked a hopeful Tina Nguyen at Vanity Fair. As The Daily Wire’s Ashe Schow reported: “NBC was the worst offender. The network interviewed Swetnick even though it said up front it couldn’t verify her claims. This is Journalism Malpractice 101; you don’t put out possibly defamatory information you can’t verify. Of course, the media was totally okay with doing this if it meant keeping Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court. They didn’t care about the consequences to his family or his reputation.” Ultimately, the claim seemed as preposterous as it was, and Democrats turned on Avenatti, as Rebecca Downs has noted at Townhall.com.
One person who certainly did not flood his show with Avenatti affection is Tucker Carlson, who nicknamed Avenatti the “Creepy Porn Lawyer.” In their only on-air meeting on September 13, 2018, Carlson told Avenatti he was “exploiting” Stormy Daniels, “and you know that. … You pose as a feminist hero, because you’re shameless and the other channels let you get away with it. But you are an exploiter of a woman, and you should be ashamed of it.”
“Whatever you think of anything else Tucker Carlson has ever said or done, he had Michael Avenatti dead to rights from day one,” tweeted Jim Antle of the Washington Examiner.
Whatever you think of anything else Tucker Carlson has ever said or done, he had Michael Avenatti dead to rights from day one.
— Jim Antle (@jimantle) July 9, 2021
The media should learn to think twice about Avenatti, but it has not and likely will not. “There should be an enormous lesson here: the media is incredibly vulnerable to a certain variety of camera-savvy huckster who tells them what they want to hear. The media was the mark, and boy did they get taken by Michael Avenatti,” wrote Drew Holden.
There should be an enormous lesson here: the media is incredibly vulnerable to a certain variety of camera-savvy huckster who tells them what they want to hear.
The media was the mark, and boy did they get taken by Michael Avenatti.
— Drew Holden (@DrewHolden360) July 8, 2021
But who was using whom? The media harkened to his words like pilgrims before the Oracle of Delphi, then washed their hands of him when he could no longer serve their aims. In other words, the media treated Avenatti like he treated his clients. And they’ll do it again.
“Avenatti is the apotheosis of a character that’s been all-too-common in the Trump era: a thinly veiled fraud whom the media push because they say mean things about a Republican,” wrote Holden. “If the media hopes to build any trust with the American people, they need to stop creating Avenattis.”
As it stands, the media bartenders kept Avenatti drunk on public exposure, proximity to power, and delusions of grandeur. Everyone, including Avenatti, is worse for wear because the media did not cut him off. Kennedy, the star of her eponymous show on Fox Business, said on Friday’s “Outnumbered” that the media need “to stop watering the beast of hubris and narcissism” and “please, rediscover skepticism.” But Holden believes nothing will change on cable, because “[n]o one has faced consequences from promoting and fawning over the fraud of Avenatti.”
Perhaps the best solution is to make sure the networks that relentlessly pushed the creepy porn lawyer, the most prurient fantasies of the Steele Dossier, and every outlandish charge against Justice Kavanaugh experience the consequences of lower ratings? That would establish something Michael Avenatti never delivered: justice.
Jarrett Stepman of The Daily Signal compiled many of the most embarrassing media clips about Michael Avenatti. You can watch them below:
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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