Media Struggles To Confront Their Failures In Covering Michael Avenatti

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Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
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  • The media, who spent substantial time covering celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, has struggled to confront their failures following his conviction Friday.
  • CNN anchors and other journalists took various approaches, with some even putting the blame on President Donald Trump.
  • CNN anchor Brian Stelter simply asked if he was “stupid” for the network’s coverage of Avenatti, whereas The Daily Beast’s Sam Stein took full responsibility and apologized.

Media personalities who bolstered celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti hesitated or failed to admit any wrongdoing in previous coverage when addressing his conviction Friday.

Multiple journalists spoke over the weekend about how they covered Avenatti. Outlets such as CNN, MSNBC and ABC gave him a platform with some even suggesting that he could take down President Donald Trump. Avenatti was convicted Friday on three charges related to his scheme to extort over $20 million from the sportswear and apparel company Nike.

CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin admitted on Feb. 14, the same day of Avenatti’s conviction, that he felt tricked because he took the celebrity lawyer so seriously over the years. Avenatti rose to notoriety for being porn star Stormy Daniels’ lawyer in a case against Trump.

“Frankly, you know, I feel kind of snookered, because I took him seriously,” Toobin said, recalling the many times Avenatti was invited onto CNN. (RELATED: Media Praised Michael Avenatti, Now A Convicted Felon, As The Man Who Could Take Down Trump)


“I remember once at the peak of all of this, we went to lunch in midtown, when our offices were in midtown, and we walked back together to CNN, and it was like walking with a major, major celebrity,” Toobin added. “People came up to him. It’s like, you know, ‘Go for it! Go get Trump!’ You know, he had this hashtag #basta. People remember that. And at the peak of this, he even announced he was considering running for president and he went to Iowa, he went to New Hampshire. And to call it hubris … doesn’t do it justice. I mean, the craziness of this.”

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who had Avenatti on his show multiple times, told Toobin during the segment that “It’s hard to imagine a more dramatic fall than this.” Toobin agreed, noting that Avenatti’s “total collapse” was crazy.

CNN’s Brian Stelter, who helped push the idea that Avenatti would not only run for president but be the only person who could take down Trump, took a different approach to Avenatti’s conviction.

Stelter began a segment by pointing out the news of Avenatti’s “alleged” extortion, adding that he had, in fact, been convicted.

“I’ve been getting some grief from Sean Hannity this weekend … for once suggesting that I thought Avenatti could be a serious candidate for president … Was that stupid on my part? What do you make of how Avenatti was covered by CNN and MSNBC?” Stelter asked The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng Sunday during “Reliable Sources.”


Markay appeared to try and blame Trump for the media’s overzealous coverage of the convicted felon. He began by pointing out that the president has “Trumpified his opposition” and suggested that it “bore itself out in the phenomenon of Michael Avenatti.”

“This was a guy who, in many ways, was very similar to Trump,” Markay said. “He really knew how to operate in the modern media environment and I think that’s what really drew a lot of Trump’s critics to him, was this idea that he could sort of beat Trump at his own game.”

“I think that a lot of folks did take him very seriously without looking at the extensive personal financial legal baggage that was out there just waiting to be reported …”

The Daily Beast reporter Sam Stein flat-out admitted he was wrong to give Avenatti so much credibility, being one of the few reporters to acknowledge his failure.

Meanwhile, CNN contributor Amanda Carpenter doubled down on the network’s coverage of Avenatti. She turned the story back around to Trump, writing that Avenatti only became a household name “because Trump had an affair with a porn star.”

“Shoutout to all the Trumpsters dunking on Michael Avenatti. You do know the reason why he became a household name, right?” Carpenter tweeted with a portion of her article about the disgraced lawyer.