It runs counter to the progress of one’s eternal soul toward enlightenment to engage too avidly in Schadenfreude. After all, to paraphrase John Donne, “do not ask whom the judge sentences – he sentences thee.” But the universe will likely forgive you a fleeting grin at the cautionary tale that is Michael Avenatti.
Recently sentenced to two and a half years in prison for his attempt to extort Nike, Avenatti has fallen from grace as the American left’s #1 anti-Trump-boy-band-pin-up-poster. As his former law school professor Jonathan Turley stated about the man he described as one of his most gifted students, this is an Icarus story.Michael Avenatti
Welcomed With Open Arms
During the sustained zenith of hair-on-fire Trump hysteria, Avenatti was a media fixture – even an obsession. His star turn was virtually without precedent. In the 13 months from March 2018 to April 2019, Avenatti made an astonishing 254 appearances on cable news shows, securing what The Washington Free Beacon estimated was $175 million in free advertising. So unslakable was the media’s thirst for his scorched-earth vitriol on Trump that he often did two interviews a day. And the fawning over Stormy Daniels’ attorney in her lawsuit against the former president was epic.
Faux-conservative and former panelist on The View, Ana Navarro, blushingly told Avenatti: “To me, you’re like the Holy Spirit.” Another former professor of Avenatti stated he wanted to “brag on” the lawyer, whom he considered “in a Justice League with Robert Mueller to save our democracy.” CNN’s Brian Stelter gushed about the Creepy Porn Lawyer’s (Tucker Carlson’s description) presidential prospects, saying:
“Looking ahead to 2020, one reason I’m taking you seriously as a contender is because of your presence on cable news.”
Whether or not a ubiquitous presence on cable news is among the criteria the American people value in their presidential candidates, Stelter didn’t say – but it certainly impressed him. Bill Maher called Avenatti “something of a folk hero” who was the “tip of the spear” to take Trump down. Time magazine writers Molly Ball and Alana Abramson framed Avenatti heroically as a warrior for truth who “fights” and “wins.” And Vanity Fair posted a “story” in its unintentionally satirical pages that could have just as easily have been a headline on The Onion: “Michael Avenatti on His Style and Skin Care Routine.” (Spoiler alert: When it comes to personal epidermal health, Avenatti “owns it.”)
Doors Begin to Close
Avenatti began to run afoul of his media enablers when he represented the fabulist accusations of Julie Swetnick about embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Unsurprisingly, these allegations turned out to be baseless, and the erosion of leftist belief in Avenatti began in earnest. The savvy media manipulator had become drunk on his own exposure, and, as writer Ben Johnson framed it, the bartenders in cable news who over-served him the hair of the dog that bit him began to pull away for fear of further taint by association.
Like every allegory, a lesson for all is embedded. As writer Drew Holden tweeted:
“There should be an enormous lesson here: the media is incredibly vulnerable to a certain variety of camera-savvy huckster who tells them what they want to hear. The media was the mark, and boy did they get taken by Michael Avenatti.”
Avenatti wept in court when he was sentenced. He seems genuinely contrite now, which is a far cry from his heroic pronouncements to fight the “false” allegations against him when he was first charged. He faces further charges in California, so he may accrue additional jail time – to his great consternation.
Perhaps we should forgive Avenatti for his trespasses as we hope to be forgiven ours. If his self-reflection and moment of personal accountability are genuine, he should be afforded all the grace we can muster – in a graceless age.
Godspeed, Michael Avenatti. Do your time. Turn the page.
Read more from Pennel Bird.