Michael Avenatti arrest downplayed by CNN, MSNBC, conservative media watchdog group says

A conservative media watchdog group is accusing MSNBC and CNN of downplaying the Wednesday arrest of Michael Avenatti, who was a frequent guest on the liberal networks prior to his fall from grace.

Avenatti, a frequent President Trump critic and the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels, made bail after his arrest on domestic violence charges and said he will be “fully exonerated." However, a Media Research Center study is faulting the networks that made him famous, saying they soft-pedaled the negative news about the #Resistance hero.

“Despite the fact that Avenatti granted them over 200 combined appearances on their networks, both CNN and MSNBC downplayed the charges,” MRC analyst Nicholas Fondacaro wrote.

According to the MRC study, TMZ broke the news of Avenatti’s arrest at 5:45 p.m. ET. ABC, NBC and CBS all fit the news into their 6:30 p.m. ET newscasts, and the story quickly exploded on social media.

“While the news was being widely reported for over an hour, MSNBC didn’t get to it until the final minute of their six o’clock program,” Fondacaro wrote. ‘CNN put off reporting on Avenatti’s arrest for almost two hours… It was obvious CNN was dragging their feet.”

According to the study, MSNBC didn’t mention Avenatti’s arrest until 6:59 p.m. ET, while CNN finally reported the news at 7:42 p.m. ET.

“MSNBC brushed over it while CNN spent part of the time correcting TMZ and touting people who claimed Avenatti wouldn’t hurt anyone,” Fondacaro wrote before criticizing the way the networks covered it when they eventually got around to the story.

“While CNN did spend two minutes and 23 seconds reporting on Avenatti’s arrest, they only spent one minute and one second of that time doing over the seriousness of the charges. They also spent an additional 19 seconds talking about how it could damage his plan for a 2020 presidential run,” he wrote. “Disturbingly, CNN spent an additional one minute and one second correcting the TMZ article… and touting a statement from Avenatti’s ex-wife who said he wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

Earlier this year, a different MRC study revealed that Avenatti appeared on broadcast and cable news shows a whopping 147 times over a 10-week period -- with 74 of the appearances being on CNN.

The MRC also pointed out that CNN was much quicker when it came to covering Avenatti’s “ridiculous and uncorroborated smears of Justice Brett Kavanaugh from his client Julie Swetnick” than it was the arrest of the controversial attorney.

CNN and MSNBC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Fondacaro was not alone as many critics took to Twitter, pointing out that CNN and MSNBC were slow to cover the arrest.

Fox News’ Elizabeth Zwirz contributed to this report.