Dan Gainor: Michael Avenatti, once a media star, shines no more as he faces criminal charges

Rise and fall. Crash and burn. Lawyer Michael Avenatti – who became a media star when he represented adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in her legal battle involving her allegations of an extramarital affair with President Trump – has gone from star to criminal defendant.

The rise and fall of the Avenatti is a mix of the dotcom bubble’s promise and the Great Recession’s collapse – at light speed.

As David Bowie sang in “Fame”:  “Fame, (fame) what you get is no tomorrow.”


Federal prosecutors in New City charged Avenatti Wednesday with one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft for allegedly defrauding Daniels.

As Fox News reported: “According to prosecutors, Avenatti stole two payments totaling $297,500 from an advance Daniels was supposed to receive from a book deal in the summer of 2018.”

Avenatti has denied all accusations against him in the Daniels case and unrelated charges filed against him earlier this year.

The lawyer was arrested in March in New York on extortion charges, accused of seeking millions of dollars from Nike. In California he was accused of stealing millions of dollars from five other clients. And he was also accused of lying to the Internal Revenue Serve and others about his income and business, among other charges.

If convicted on all the charges against him Avenatti could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Avenatti, who Tucker Carlson dubbed “creepy porn lawyer,” was given all the media love one person could stand. He averaged about one TV appearance per business day — 254 over the past year.

Avenatti now calls himself “Icarus” who “flew too close to the sun.” His fame boomlet last year is the perfect metaphor for the bad journalism of the Trump era. You no longer need to be a genuine VIP to become a media star. You just need to stridently attack President Trump and you become an instant celebrity.

Porn personalities, loudmouths, well-connected spouses and B, C and D actors and actresses all become stars. The more vicious or foul the attacks on the president, the better for the Trump-hating media.

Avenatti, who Tucker Carlson dubbed “creepy porn lawyer,” was given all the media love one person could stand. He averaged about one TV appearance per business day — 254 over the past year.  Nearly half – 121 appearances – were on The Resistance Network of CNN. He was even partying in Sag Harbor with CNN anchor Don Lemon and other staff.

Avenatti’s involvement in the Senate confirmation hearing for now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh became what Vanity Fair dubbed “one of Avenatti’s Waterloos.”

News outlets blamed Aventatti for undermining the attempt to derail the nomination of the Supreme Court justice. New York Times Washington correspondent Charlie Savage argued that Avenatti "did a huge favor to the Trump White House."

Up to that point, media personalities had celebrated Avenatti’s every move – even his sexual fantasies. HBO Host Bill Maher called Avenatti “Donald Trump’s worst nightmare.”

Comedian Stephen Colbert depicted the lawyer as an “existential threat to the Trump presidency.”

“The View” host Joy Behar said “he’s out there saving the country.”

Avenatti even had a role in delivering an alleged “sex tape” involving R&B singer R. Kelly to the media and authorities.

Journalists gave Avenatti the best compliment they could. They took him seriously. At one point the attorney even said he was considering running for the Democratic nomination for president in hopes of challenging Trump in 2020.

CNN “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter cited the media love for Avenatti as a reason he might become president. “And looking ahead to 2020, one reason why I'm taking you seriously as a contender is because of your presence on cable news,” Stelter told Avenatti.

Washington Post White House Bureau Chief Philip Rucker took a similar clueless view, declaring: “If you look at the field of Democrats right now and Avenatti is the one who stands out.”

He stood out alright. He went from minor player to center stage when Stormy Daniels became his client. He no longer represents her.

A recent Vanity Fair profile of Avenatti called him “a #Resistance warrior the moment required.” But it delved into allegations of intimidation and domestic violence and detailed what it called “Avenatti’s rage cycle.”

It is important to note that Avenatti has not been convicted of any crime. In the #MeToo era, everyone should get a fair trial and be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Even the guy the media used to target Trump in a massive series of anti-Trump hit jobs.


Andy Warhol once said: "In the future everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes." That’s no longer true. If you attack Trump and are a ceaseless self-promoter, then you can enjoy months of celebrity from an appreciative press.

Just watch yourself. That first step down is a doozy.