CNN's "Reliable Sources" host Brian Stelter asked his guest panel on Sunday if it was "stupid" on his part to have once considered disgraced lawyer and now-convicted criminal Michael Avenatti as a serious presidential candidate. During one interview on his show, Stelter told Avenatti he considered him as a potential candidate because of his master use of the media.
Avenatti has fallen hard since his media saturated days, now that he was found guilty on all counts of extortion against Nike. The lawsuit said Avenatti threatened Nike with a press conference accusing the sports company of corruption unless they paid him and his co-conspirator millions of dollars.
Avenatti became a major figure within the "Resistance" movement when he represented Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Trump, along with representing a third sexual misconduct accuser against then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh while he was being confirmed by the Senate to sit on the Supreme Court.
"I’ve been getting some grief from Sean Hannity this weekend, speaking of Fox, for once suggesting that Avenatti could be a serious candidate for president. So give me a media critique. Was that stupid on my part? What do you make of how Avenatti was covered by CNN and MSNBC?" Stelter asked.
"Well I think one of the weird and, in many cases, distressing things that Trump has done is basically to Trumpify his opposition as well," Daily Beast reporter Lachlan Markay said. "And you see this very often in the conspiratorial mindset that many of his detractors take online and I think that borne itself out in the phenomenon of Michael Avenatti as well."
Markay said because Avenatti was similar to Trump when it came to manipulating the media, "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," adding, "The question that I think a lot of journalists have to ask themselves is whether by virtue of granting that, they were basically were being played by that very strategy, his ability to sort of manipulate the media."
Fellow Daily Beast reporter Asawin Suebsaeng said it would have been weird not to take Avenatti "seriously, at least in the form of someone who was getting in the president’s head one way or the other, and doing things that did result in actual legal real world consequences."
Womp Womppic.twitter.com/qrQeBFH3ZI— Free Beacon (@FreeBeacon) February 14, 2020
Stelter was far from being the only one who breathlessly covered Avenatti at the height of his popularity. CNN and MSNBC gave Avenatti nearly $175 million in free media in a two month period during 2018, according to the Washington Free Beacon.