Michael Avenatti’s swift journey to Resistance Champion was abetted by the news media, eager to observe (and induce) the downfall of Donald Trump. New reporting suggests Avenatti revealed glaring flaws in his character to the press while many of its members were boosting him.
In the middle of a new Vanity Fair report charting his fall from grace, Emily Jane Fox included anecdotes about Avenatti’s troubling behind-the-scenes behavior at the time of his ascent, sourced to a “prime time anchor,” “a number of reporters,” and at least one booker (but probably more).
Behind the scenes, his behavior was even more volatile. ‘He had a terrible temper,’ one prime-time anchor told me. ‘He never lost it with me, or really with any of the talent, as far as I know, because it was mostly for the bookers or the people who were behind the scenes. But he would tell people, ‘I’m going to fucking bury you. Why the fuck would you do that?’ if he didn’t like something.’ A number of reporters recalled that he would physically invade their space. ‘His nose gets millimeters from your face and it’s clear he knows no boundaries,’ one broadcast reporter and producer told me.
Last spring, a print outlet published a story that called into question whether Avenatti had paid someone for information that would have helped his client. According to two people, he confronted the reporter on a cable set to express his displeasure and started to shout: ‘Fuck me once, shame on you.’ People came up to her afterward to make sure she was O.K. ‘That’s how aggressive and alarming it was.’
His temper often flared when producers and bookers tried to vet stories he was involved in. ‘It felt like we were enabling a total rage-oholic,’ one booker told me. ‘It was pathological.’
Both the prime-time anchor and a reporter “Avenatti raged at” told Vanity Fair he had a habit of engaging in heavy flattery with the media as well. It’s all pretty gross when looking back at just how thick the press laid it on last year. This Washington Free Beacon compilation video is a good, if depressing, trip down memory lane:
— Washington Free Beacon (@FreeBeacon) April 12, 2019
“Will Avenatti be a media inflection point? His bullying, bordering on abuse, seemed to be an open – and tolerated – secret,” Amy Chozick of The New York Times tweeted on Wednesday, linking to the Vanity Fair report. It’s possible, though unlikely, that only a smattering of media members had similar experiences with Avenatti. But Chozick is absolutely correct to interpret the reporting as evidence his conduct was an open secret in the press.
Stories like these spread like wildfire through greenrooms and newsrooms alike. If as many people had these experiences as the Vanity Fair report indicates, you can bet a healthy chunk of the press— especially in cable news—was well-aware of them and chose to keep giving Avenatti airtime anyway. I guess they thought he made good television.
Yes, the media ultimately conducted some solid reporting that exposed Avenatti’s problems. But that came only after giving him a major platform for months, and after many had likely known about the red flags against his credibility.