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Trump Is Why You Got Michael Avenatti

February 16, 2020
Trump Is Why You Got Michael Avenatti
Gayle King, Michael Avenatti, Don Lemon and Sean Hannity attend the 2018 The Hollywood Reporter's 35 Most Powerful People In Media at The Pool on April 12, 2018. (Taylor Hill/WireImage)

Trump World went into overdrive dunking on Michael Avenatti after the lawyer was convicted of extortion against Nike on Friday. Fox Newsers, members of the Trump 2020 campaign, and the Republican National Committee took a victory lap mocking media personalities—like me—who once gave him credit for taking on Trump.

So let’s talk about that.

There is only one reason why anyone even knows Avenatti’s name, and it has nothing to do with Nike. It’s because of the story that Trump had an affair with a porn star and paid her hush money to keep her from telling the story to voters before the 2016 election.

Remember that? Sorry, not sorry, Trumpsters. That story is always going to be newsworthy, despite attempts from the Trump campaign to make it about anything else. Trump’s old lawyer Michael Cohen would love to tell you more about it . . . when his three-year prison term for perpetuating that falsehood and various other crimes on behalf of the president expires.

So, who is the good guy here? Trick question! None of them.

There are no heroes in this story. It’s scuzzbucket politics, all the way down. Which is the type of thing that conservatives used to try to avoid. First there’s Trump, the man who is said to have cheated on his lovely wife, who was at home caring for their new baby, with random women he met while “out on business.” Then there are the two women who claim to have had affairs with him: porn actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal. They both knew Trump was married. They both tried to sell their stories before the election and they both accepted hush money to stay quiet.

Sprinkled here and there are skeezy men such as the National Enquirer’s David Pecker, Trump fixer Michael Cohen, and, rushing onstage during the third act, to make sure he got some of the spotlight, too, Michael Avenatti—all of whom were facilitating the various deals while serving their self-interests, too.

When Daniels and McDougal were ambushed by the media, they were in a no-win situation. Trump and his paid staff denied the story and the women found themselves being gaslit by the president of the United States. Which is not fun. Daniels turned to Avenatti for help, which turned out to be her fourth mistake.

Avenatti used Daniels to turn himself into a cable news celebrity. He used his TV celebrity turn himself into a Twitter celebrity. And he was in the process of using his Twitter celebrity to flirt with the idea of running for the Democratic nomination. And if that had been the only way Avenatti misused Daniels, she would have been lucky. Instead, she had to take legal action against him and he was charged with stealing almost $300,000 from her.

Then, on Friday, he was convicted of trying to extort more than $20 million from Nike. A knight in shining armor, Avenatti was not.

And let’s not forget the ridiculous allegations Avenatti brought against Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings.

But no one outside courtroom circles would know Avenatti’s name if it wasn’t for Donald Trump. Which is why Trump’s allies want to rub people’s noses in the dirt for having given Avenatti airtime. It’s a twofer: An opportunity to get revenge on the media for daring to talk about Trump’s hush money dealings last time and a way to work the refs and get them to downplay coverage of the next Trump scandal. (Note the assumption that there will be a next Trump scandal. Because, of course there will be.)

Talking about “The Media” isn’t usually helpful. It’s like talking about “The Ocean” when you really mean one specific spot on the beach. The Avenatti story isn’t about media malfeasance. There are plenty of problems with The Media—for instance the gifting of $2 billion worth of free air time to Donald Trump in 2016 because it was good for ratings. But the rise and fall of Michael Avenatti wasn’t The Media’s fault. They didn’t make him.

They were just forced to cover him—as they have been forced to cover the Mooch, and Omarosa, and Michael Cohen, and Lev Parnas, and Rudy Giuliani, and Steve Bannon, and Paul Manafort, and dozens of grifters, weirdos, and crooks—because he’s the kind of person who somehow always winds up in Donald Trump’s orbit.

If you hate Michael Avenatti, don’t blame The Media. Trump is the one who brought him into your life.

That’s not a coincidence.

Amanda Carpenter

Amanda Carpenter is an author, a former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz, and a former speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint. She was formerly a Bulwark political columnist.