By Howard Kurtz
Published May 24, 2019
The media are dutifully reporting that Michael Avenatti has been charged with stealing a huge amount of money from the porn star who made him famous.
What almost no one is doing is looking at how television was Avenatti's enabler.
All the shows that constantly featured Avenatti — often covered by video of Stormy Daniels in tight-fitting dresses — made a judgment that he was a credible attorney.
Or at least good TV.
Or at least a reliable source of overheated attacks on President Trump, which they also viewed as good TV.
That helps explain why Avenatti made 121 appearances on CNN this past year, and 108 on MSNBC (plus two on Fox). He was sometimes on those networks several times a day. That's in addition to Avenatti being featured on "The View," Colbert, and other programs.
The press often talks about character in presidential campaigns. Much of the media essentially vouched for his character, even when he made empty promises and unsubstantiated charges.
Avenatti says he'll be totally exonerated in the case involving Stormy, who dumped him a couple of months ago and said he'd been "extremely dishonest" with her. He is, of course, entitled to the presumption of innocence.
But the new indictment is pretty detailed in charging that Avenatti forged a document robbing Stormy of nearly $300,000 from a book deal, in part to pay for a Ferrari and other elements of his luxurious lifestyle.
This follows two other indictments, one alleging a massive extortion scheme aimed at Nike, the other charging that he diverted money from his former partners and clients.
When Avenatti started exploring a presidential bid, some anchors and reporters indulged his delusion. They asked him about going up against the other Democratic candidates. There were some cringe-worthy moments.
Perhaps the lowest moment came when Avenatti began representing the third Brett Kavanaugh accuser, Julie Swetnick. He went on television and demanded that the FBI interview her. Her wild allegations turned out to be totally uncorroborated, her confirming sources nonexistent.
The latest indictment has been widely reported, but now that he's facing multiple criminal charges, there's been little reflection on why the man who was so welcome in their TV studios.
Vanity Fair now reports, in addition to allegations from an ex-girlfriend that Avenatti abused her and raged against her — which he denies — that the lawyer screamed at and threatened TV staff members behind the scenes. "His temper often flared when producers and bookers tried to vet stories he was involved in," Emily Jane Fox reports. Yet these outlets made no public mention of such clear signs of a volatile personality.
The $130,000 in hush money paid to Stormy Daniels was a legitimate story. But the media that made Michael Avenatti famous in the process really led their viewers and readers astray, as is clear now that he's infamous.