2018 was the year the mainstream media willingly handed whatever was left of their credibility and dignity over to an aging porn star/stripper and her odious, ethically challenged attorney.
Night after night, webpage after webpage, social media post after social media post, the American public was inundated with sordid, tawdry details ranging from the size and likeness of President Trump’s phallus to … well … there doesn’t really need to be an outer range of this coverage for you to get the point.
At one point, Mr. Avenatti had become such a fixture on certain cable networks that it almost appeared he had joined the prime-time lineup. Analysts at the Media Research Center categorized his appearances on CNN over a two-month period. The results are as startling as they are embarrassing.
“MRC analysts combed through transcripts of all of CNN’s 2018 coverage looking for references to interviews with Avenatti, and then double-checked using our video archive,” the research center wrote at their Newsbusters website. “Since Avenatti’s first appearance on March 7, he has been interviewed on CNN a whopping 59 times, more than one-third of which (19) were with Anderson Cooper — who, of course, interviewed Stormy Daniels on CBS’s ‘60 Minutes’ back in March.”
And don’t fool yourself into thinking that it was just the tawdry cable news outlets that focused on the story because she is an attractive, buxomy pornographic actress (real name Stephanie Clifford) who plays into the tabloid mindset of today’s cable news business.
“Why Trump Should Fear Michael Avenatti More Than Bob Mueller” headlined Politico in May. “Why the Stormy Daniels-Donald Trump story matters” intoned the BBC around the same time. In September, The New York Times opened its revered op-ed pages to Mr. Avenatti so he could convey to the Old Gray Lady’s readers “The Case for Indicting the President,” as his opinion piece was titled.
Make no mistake: The “porn star and her lawyer” story was surely leading to President Trump’s impeachment.
Not only that, but Mr. Avenatti suddenly became a legitimate contender for the 2020 Democratic Party nomination for president. Not only would the porn-star lawyer bring down Mr. Trump in the courtroom, but he would also vanquish the Republican Party at the ballot box.
And the media took him seriously. “Michael Avenatti Is Winning the 2020 Democratic Primary,” Politico predicted in September. And, he probably was. Because he appeared to be succeeding in the only policy Democrats really have focused on since November 2016: Destroying Donald Trump. If the Democrats stood for only one thing, why not nominate the man actually working toward achieving that one thing? “Avenatti 2020” made perfect sense.
The media had invested all of their time and energy into the task of bringing down the duly elected president of the United States, and “Stormy Daniels” was just one more weapon to win their obsessive war.
Until she wasn’t.
This week, The Daily Beast ran an exclusive story on Ms. Clifford and her complaint that Mr. Avenatti is an unethical, out-of-control narcissist using her as a means for publicity, money and his fledgling political career — admittedly, something most observers not singularly focused on destroying Mr. Trump could see for the first time he was forced down our throats on national television.
According to Ms. Clifford, Mr. Avenatti has been raising money in her name and concealed the accounting, as well as the actual funds, from her. Plus, she said he filed a lawsuit against the president in her name without her permission — a flagrant violation of legal ethics if true.
“For months I’ve asked Michael Avenatti to give me accounting information about the fund my supporters so generously donated to for my safety and legal defense. He has repeatedly ignored those requests,” her statement read. “Days ago I demanded again, repeatedly, that he tell me how the money was being spent and how much was left. Instead of answering me, without my permission or even my knowledge Michael launched another crowdfunding campaign to raise money on my behalf. I learned about it on Twitter.”
Shockingly, both ABC and CBS ignored this latest development and cable networks not called Fox gave only token coverage. Certainly a far cry from the wall-to-wall Stormy-fest we’ve endured for months as the pending articles of impeachment were surely being drafted behind the scenes.
In any other era, the porn star and her lawyer would have been ignored by journalists interested in looking themselves in the mirror on a daily basis. But the rules have changed. Now, the goal is not to deliver the news to the American people; the goal is to bring down the president who dares to challenge the dominance of these mainstream media.
Nothing else matters. And now that Ms. Clifford and Mr. Avenatti can’t help them achieve that goal, they don’t matter either.
⦁ Larry O’Connor writes about politics and the media for The Washington Times and can be heard weekday afternoons on WMAL radio in Washington. Follow Larry on Twitter @LarryO’Connor.