Critics blast press over Avenatti debacle: 'One of the more humiliating chapters in media malfeasance'

Media top headlines July 12

The New York Times getting ripped for equating ‘freedom’ to an ‘anti-government slogan,’ Gov. Kristi Noem saying it was ‘tough’ being attacked by conservative media over trans-athlete bill, and MSNBC giving Michael Avenatti’s prison sentence less than 2 minutes of coverage round out today’s top media headlines

Disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti, once heralded by media members and commentators as the “savior of the republic,” the “Holy Spirit,” and “Donald Trump’s worst nightmare,” is going to prison, and critics aren’t eager to forgive or forget his enablers in the press.

Avenatt was sentenced to two-and-a-half years imprisonment last week after being convicted of trying to extort $25 million from Nike, and his legal woes aren’t even over, as he faces charges of fraud and tax evasion in California. It was what the Washington Examiner’s Becket Adams called “one of the more humiliating chapters in media malfeasance” coming closer to an end.

“Will there be any accountability for the people who made him a household name?” the Wall Street Journal’s James Freeman asked. “The fraudster enjoyed favorable coverage across the establishment media landscape because he was always eager to hurl allegations at Donald Trump or his appointees.”

Before his downfall, liberal outlets MSNBC and CNN gave Avenatti hundreds of millions of dollars in free media as he represented Stormy Daniels in litigation against Trump, Vanity Fair published a feature on his skincare routine, and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow even gave credence to his accusation that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was implicated in gang rapes. 

CNN’s Brian Stelter sipped coffee as he told Avenatti he took him seriously as a Democratic presidential candidate, MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace said Democrats would be “foolish” to underestimate him, Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin told him she loved him, and MSNBC’s Joy Reid called him “brilliant” and “mad telegenic.” Before an interview with Avenatti, Stelter grew indignant on his behalf for Fox News host Tucker Carlson calling him a “creepy porn lawyer.” Coverage included puffy profiles from NPR and the New York Times, as well as a Washington Post recap of his youth voter outreach at the Video Music Awards.

The left-wing Lincoln Project’s Rick Wilson said of him, “Avenatti’s got balls. Giant, clanking, titanium balls.”

Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein hit Democrats and the media for embracing the “con artist,” and Fox News contributor Joe Concha derided the press for being sucked in by the “shady hustler” in a video commentary last week.

“This is just another example of media activism in broad daylight. And here’s the kicker: all the people on air who were part of this debacle will have almost no contrition,” he said.

Publishing one of his trademark Twitter threads of poorly aged takes from media members, conservative writer Drew Holden recounted the embarrassing saga and predicted nothing would change for the better.

“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. If the media hopes to build any trust with the American people, they need to stop creating Avenattis,” he tweeted.

During Avenatti’s sentencing, Judge Paul Gardephe of the Southern District of New York called his conduct “outrageous,” although the 30-month sentence he got was far less than the eight years prosecutors wanted.

Fox News host Greg Gutfeld said taking a “victory lap” on the Avenatti embarrassment was his “favorite form of cardio.”

“Almost all the media’s handiwork is a hate crime hoax against you,” he said Friday. “They spend their careers making you into the bad guy, while elevating creeps like Avenatti. Fueled by their own narcissism, they elevated Avenatti so they could look cool. Overlooking the obvious red flags everyone else could see.”

There hasn’t been much navel-gazing among liberal press members over the Avenatti debacle. Stelter’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter devoted two sentences to the “formerly TV-famous lawyer” on Thursday. CBS correspondent Jamie Wax acknowledged Friday perhaps “we went about covering him the wrong way,” although he received quick pushback from “This Morning” anchor Tony Dokoupil.

“I wouldn’t say ‘we,'” he said. “I wouldn’t say ‘we.’”

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