Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has walked between raindrops in recent media appearances, skipping gleefully from “60 Minutes” to CNN to MSNBC. But with a threat to sue reporters at the conservative Daily Caller, he may finally have slipped.
It was a “very Trump-like reaction to a media platform,” frequent MSNBC contributor Kurt Bardella told TheWrap, adding that Avenatti has until now received “kind of a free pass from character scrutiny” in the mainstream media.
Conservative news outlets have groused for months about Avenatti, whose client, aka Stephanie Clifford, received a $130,000 payment from Trump attorney Michael Cohen in October 2016. A Washington Free Beacon story Friday calculated that he has received $175 million worth of media time in 108 CNN and MSNBC appearances since early March.
The Daily Caller got in on the action Sunday: Reporters Peter Hasson and Joe Simonson wrote an article that said: “Avenatti’s past is littered with lawsuits, jilted business partners and bankruptcy filings.”
On Monday, Avenatti sent Hasson an email threatening to sue him and Simonson.
“Let me be clear. If you and your colleagues do not stop with the hit pieces that are full of lies and defamatory statements, I will have no choice but to sue each of you and your publication for defamation,” he wrote. “If you think I’m kidding, you really don’t know anything about me. This is the last warning.”
Bardella is one of the rare people who can see the issue from the left and the right. He was a rising Republican star and former Breitbart spokesperson before he became a Democrat last year.
“I thought immediately that it revealed a thin-skinned side of him that we have not seen or didn’t know existed given this media crush that has been unfolding for the last two months,” Bardella said of Avenatti’s legal threat.
Avenatti’s swashbuckling attacks on Trump have made him a hero to some Trump opponents, as he has accused the president of sleeping with his porn-star client in 2006 and then trying to silence her through threats and Cohen’s payment.
But others have tired of Avenatti.
“I have had friends who don’t like Trump roll their eyes when he now comes on,” said Jon Nicosia, a former managing editor of Mediaite who spoke with TheWrap. “He has morphed from the lawyer of a porn star that may have slept with Trump to a go-to anti-Trump (and Trump associates) pundit. He’s been on shows where Stormy never comes up.”
Joe Concha, media reporter for The Hill, added that Avenatti is “accomplished at making threats and promises he can’t back up.” But Concha said the news media doesn’t hold Avenatti accountable.
Concha said that Avenatti tweeted a picture of a mysterious disc before he and Daniels appeared on “60 Minutes” in March — but never explained what the disc contains.
“Where is that disc he tweeted out that was supposed to be the smoking gun for his client who is largely forgotten now?” Concha asked. “Why not present that evidence in the more than 100 interviews he’s conducted on CNN and MSNBC in the past two months alone? And why don’t any hosts press him on that?”
Concha said more reporters would stand with the Daily Caller reporters if they worked for “any non-conservative outlet.”
Avenatti did not immediately respond to request for comment. But he has taken the Trump approach of always attacking, and making no apologies.
On Monday evening, Avenatti offered a vigorous defense of his email to Hasson, telling CNN’s Don Lemon that journalists who were “unethical” needed to be called out. (Lemon’s boyfriend later told Simonson, one of the Caller reporters, that the media is soft on Avenatti.)
Avenatti later blocked both Hasson and Simonson on Twitter. The president has also been known to block reporters who harangue him with critical coverage.
So is this the end of Avenatti’s reign at CNN and MSNBC? Not likely, said Bardella, who said he thinks the media will forgive the Trumpian outburst from Avenatti if he continues to make news.
He also said it is easier for the mainstream media to overlook the bullying of a conservative outlet.
“Writing that to the Daily Caller brings a very different reception than writing it to the Daily Beast,” said Bardella.
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