A lengthy Politico profile of disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti recounts how he and the press used each other before his spectacular downfall, and Avenatti says he's infuriated he can't defend himself on the cable news outlets that once invited him on every day.
"No matter where you land on the question of his downfall, we are a part of this story, too. He used the media, and we used him," Politico's Ruby Cramer wrote.
Once a media darling as he represented porn actress Stormy Daniels in her litigation against former President Trump, Avenatti is now a convicted felon, with his legal troubles still far from over. He was sentenced in July to 30 months in prison for trying to extort millions from Nike, and he is living under house arrest in California as he tries to earn his freedom and rehabilitate his damaged reputation.
In 2018, it was hard to turn on CNN or MSNBC and avoid Avenatti, where he constantly dropped nuggets that he had evidence that would end Trump's presidency. He repeatedly predicted Trump would not finish out his first term in office. Vanity Fair published a feature on his skincare routine. CNN commentator Ana Navarro likened him to the "Holy Spirit" during an appearance on "The View." CNN's Brian Stelter sipped coffee as he told Stelter he took him seriously as a possible presidential candidate. Partisan and mainstream hosts called him a "beast" and "Trump's worst nightmare" who was "saving the country."
Avenatti recounted to Cramer that at a "top 100" media event in New York City that year, MSNBC's Ari Melber called him the "belle of the ball," an exchange confirmed by an MSNBC spokesperson.
"I’m going to look back some day and say, ‘This was the peak. It was all downhill from here,'" Avenatti said.
Now, he can't, as Cramer suggested, reconnect with what the reporter called his "old friends at MSNBC and CNN" as part of a means to publicly fix his broken image.
"I don’t think it would be smart. I don’t think it’d be a good look, and, you know, why risk it?" he said, adding that being unable to talk on a cable set is "not killing me" but "it’s infuriating."
Speaking with Cramer, Avenatti remembered watching CNN after his conviction in February 2020 for trying to extort $25 million from Nike and how legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin "was relishing" his situation. Toobin admitted in the segment to host Anderson Cooper that he felt "snookered" by Avenatti, saying he had taken him seriously. However, he pointed out Cooper defended him as a serious lawyer before that who won prominent lawsuits and had been featured on "60 Minutes" before his Trump-era fame.
His near-ubiquitous cable news presence in 2018, the gushing praise he received on MSNBC, CNN and elsewhere, and his flirtation with running for the 2020 Democratic nomination is widely considered one of the most embarrassing media sagas of the Trump era. Avenatti's lawsuits for Daniels failed, and she later accused him of stealing money from her, his efforts to stop the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh backfired, and a string of arrests saw him go from liberal hero to another cautionary media tale.
"He is juggling three federal indictments, claims of fraud, embezzlement, and attempted extortion, the details of which he commands as if he were representing himself, which he did in the second of the three cases, in California, where federal prosecutors accused him of stealing millions of dollars from his own client," Politico reported.