The Southern District of New York (SDNY) filed charges of extortion Monday against attorney Michael Avenatti, claiming he threatened Nike with negative media exposure in exchange for a payoff. And if it weren’t for the platform extended to him by networks like CNN and MSNBC, he might not have had the leverage to do so.
Federal prosecutors allege that Avenatti informed Nike he had information that could be damaging to the brand, according to the SDNY’s filings. He then reportedly claimed that he could use his leverage in the national media to inflict maximum damage — or, for a price, he could make it all go away. (RELATED: Avenatti Facing A Lot Of Years Behind Bars)
FBI recorded Michael Avenatti saying to Nike attorney: have you “ever held the balls of the client in your hand where you could take five to six billion dollars market cap off of them” pic.twitter.com/sUFyV5truP
— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) March 25, 2019
Avenatti allegedly planned to use his relationships with multiple media outlets to force whatever dirt he claimed to have on Nike into the national conversation. And CNN’s Chris Cillizza was quick to suggest that it was actually Trump who was to blame for the rise of Avenatti.
“Trump may have created the environment in which someone like Avenatti could be taken semi-seriously as a presidential candidate. But Avenatti’s fall also proves there is only one Donald Trump out there.”https://t.co/ehFzXyjR1P
— Chris Cillizza (@CillizzaCNN) March 25, 2019
But what Cillizza left out is that those relationships exist because outlets like CNN and MSNBC gave the attorney a platform — and likely millions in free publicity — as he represented adult entertainer Stormy Daniels in her cases against President Donald Trump.
When you don’t think CNN can become a bigger joke, there’s this where they have the audacity to blame @realDonaldTrump for giving Sleazy Avenatti a platform-when it was CNN that put him on air 12x a day. Sheesh! https://t.co/ruOnsG6sfw
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) March 26, 2019
“It’s Trump’s fault we at CNN gave Avenatti wall to wall coverage and free airtime” https://t.co/pT0T9kNpj8
— Comfortably Smug (@ComfortablySmug) March 25, 2019
chris, what cable network took Avenatti “semi-seriously”by having him on dozens of times & referring to him as a credible candidate? (hint: it rhymes with CNN) https://t.co/dvoSS8xz0j
— GregGutfeld (@greggutfeld) March 26, 2019
Between March 7 and May of last year, this guy appeared on CNN and MSNBC 108 times, and people were booming him for President. https://t.co/xedAXpKDBd
— Brit Hume (@brithume) March 25, 2019
— Matt Batzel (@MattBatzel) March 25, 2019
— Brent Scher (@BrentScher) March 25, 2019
Avenatti is also facing charges in California, as authorities allege he embezzled clients’ funds to defray personal expenses and present phony tax documents to a bank.