Gaffes, threats should mean its time to take Avenatti off air

Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels, has been interviewed 147 times on broadcast and cable news shows overall in the past ten weeks, including 74 times on CNN, according to the conservative Media Research Center

And during this stretch on the air, and on Twitter and email, there have been times when the credibility of the 47-year-old attorney has been called into question by his critics, as he continues to be provided perhaps more airtime than any non-payroll person on cable news in recent memory. 

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The most recent example of Avenatti arguably providing speculation as fact came after a May 3 NBC News report that the feds put a wiretap on the phones of President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown MORE's personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

 


Shortly after the news broke, Avenatti was invited on MSNBC and asked about the report, where he offered up this additional bombshell:

"I don't think we're going to find out that this was confined just to email or voice wiretaps. My understanding is that they were also wiretapping text message communications for the weeks leading up to the FBI raids,” Avenatti told anchor Kasie Hunt. 

"I also think that it will ultimately be disclosed that during these wiretaps the FBI learned of means by which Michael Cohen and others were going to potentially destroy or spoliate evidence or documentation," he continued. "That's what served as the predicate or the basis for them to be able to go in and get the warrant to search the home, the office and the hotel room of Michael Cohen." 

"This is going to ultimately be what the dominoes sequence will be," he added before declaring that Cohen will be indicted and that President Trump "won't serve out his term."

Hunt pushed back, asking if he was merely speculating, given the weight and sensitivity around the information he provided regarding wiretapping text message communications, which was not part of the original NBC report.  

"I'm not speculating, that's a fact," he replied. 

Fast forward a few hours later to NBC's correction of the story

Turns out that there was no wiretap but, rather, that something called a pen register was applied, which limits the information captured to a log of calls, and "not a wiretap where investigators can actually listen to calls," per the official NBC correction. 

 

 

In any sane media world, two things would happen to Avenatti: 

A) He wouldn't be booked to go on the air again after being exposed for engaging in exactly what Hunt pressed him on in terms of whether he was speculating or presenting factual information. Simply put, it appears Avenatti provided the former. 

B) He would be booked to go back on the air, but any interview conducted would consist solely of him being pressed to offer his own correction/retraction/apology. 

Instead, Avenatti continued to be ubiquitous on cable news without being challenged on this front in almost any capacity. 

And the amazing part is, we barely hear the name "Stormy Daniels" even mentioned anymore, which is the whole reason he's become cable news royalty on CNN and MSNBC in the first place. 

It brings back memories of the Michael Wolff book tour for "Fire and Fury" when, even after the author admitted to being allergic to fact-checking and conceded that many of the accounts in the book were "badly untrue," he continued to appear everywhere and anywhere to push the gossip that was somehow treated as gospel. 

The wiretap error isn't the only example.  

Remember this? 

 

That's a tweet from Avenatti from March 22. He later told Wolf Blitzer on CNN that the disc provides evidence about Daniels's claims regarding the alleged affair with Trump in 2006.

Dozens of interviews later, including one in front of more than 22 million people on "60 Minutes," and we have yet to see said disc nor even be told about the contents of it. 

And, in the exceptional instance that Avenatti is actually asked about it, he uses it to negotiate for even more airtime. 

"You’re not going to release the DVD. But what is on the DVD?” asked MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski on May 11.

"I'm not going to tell you what's on the DVD yet. I'm not going to disclose that this morning," Avenatti replied. 

“It’s not important?” asked Brzezinski.

“No, it’s very important,” Avenatti replied. “We can have a whole show. If you’ll devote a show to what’s on the DVD, maybe we’ll release it.”

“Ms. Brzezinski, stop badgering the witness,” injected co-host Joe Scarborough, thereby ending the inquiry. 

In other words, give Avenatti three hours, and you'll get the information he teased two months ago. 

This week, Avenatti threatened two reporters from the Daily Caller with a lawsuit if they continued to run "hit pieces" on him.  

It's still not clear what specifically in the report Avenatti is taking issue with.  

One would think that that this would be the last straw for most hosts and journalists, in terms of putting the attorney in the penalty box for a while and off the air.  

But the interviews just keep coming. Avenatti being treated like a top political analyst or a DOJ/FBI insider will continue. 

This is the state of media today, where as long as the narrative is juicy and the target is the president and his personal attorney, the guest spots will keep on coming by the dozens per month.  

Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) is a media reporter for The Hill.

This piece has been updated.