At 5:45 p.m. Eastern Time Wednesday, TMZ first broke the news that Democratic lawyer and 2020 presidential hopeful Michael Avenatti was arrested by Los Angeles police on domestic violence charges. Despite the fact that Avenatti granted them over 200 combined appearances on their networks, both CNN and MSNBC downplayed the charges. MSNBC brushed over it while CNN spent part of the time correcting TMZ and touting people who claimed Avenatti wouldn’t hurt anyone.
According to TMZ, “Our law enforcement sources say Avenatti was arrested Wednesday after a woman filed a felony DV report. We're told her face was ‘swollen and bruised’ with ‘red marks’ on both cheeks.”
While the news was being widely reported for over an hour, MSNBC didn’t get to it until the final minute of their six o’clock program, The Beat. At 6:59 p.m. Eastern, host Ari Melber dedicated a fleeting 15 seconds to the breaking news:
Breaking news this hour on Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels. NBC News is reporting that Mr. Avenatti has been arrested for a domestic violence charge. That's breaking right now and MSNBC will bring you updates as warranted.
There was no peep of the charges from Hardball host Chris Matthews the following hour.
CNN put off reporting on Avenatti’s arrest for almost two hours. At the 7:42 p.m. mark for OutFront, host Erin Burnett finally began the cable outlet’s reporting after three teases earlier that hour. As Burnett was introducing correspondent MJ Lee, she suggested that “this literally breaking here moments ago.” But given that the news was nearly two-hours-old and first reported by TMZ, claiming it “literally” broke “moments ago” and “here” was a lie.
It was obvious CNN was dragging their feet. When Avenatti first went public with his ridiculous and uncorroborated smears of Justice Brett Kavanaugh from his client Julie Swetnick, CNN sprinted to the news to the studio. At 11:44 a.m. Eastern Time on September 26, CNN’s Kate Bolduan interrupted a segment on trade to spread the smears until Inside Politics began at the top of the hour. They then spent an additional 30 minutes on it.
On that same day, CNN.com had 12 articles mentioning Swetnick. As of the publishing of this piece, CNN.com had exactly one on Avenatti’s charges.
While CNN did spend two minutes and 23 seconds reporting on Avenatti’s arrest, they only spent one minute and one second of that time doing over the seriousness of the charges. They also spent an additional 19 seconds talking about how it could damage his plan for a 2020 presidential run.
Disturbingly, CNN spent an additional one minute and one second correcting the TMZ article (despite TMZ’s own corrections) and touting a statement from Avenatti’s ex-wife who said he wouldn’t hurt anyone. “This is Lisa Avenatti and when I spoke with her on the phone … she also said that he is somebody who wouldn't ever hit anyone,” Lee professed.
“Also, just a key sentence here from that statement,” Lee added. “‘My client states that there has never been domestic violence in her relationship with Michael and that she has never known Michael to be physically violent toward anyone.’”
In sharp contrast, all three broadcast news outlets (ABC, CBS, and NBC) managed to get the news of Avenatti’s arrest packaged and ready to go for their 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. programs (respectively). CBS Evening News even led with the arrest.
The transcripts are below, click "expand" to read:
MSNBC’s The Beat
November 14, 2018
6:59:22 p.m. Eastern
ARI MELBER: Breaking news this hour on Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels. NBC News is reporting that Mr. Avenatti has been arrested for a domestic violence charge. That's breaking right now and MSNBC will bring you updates as warranted.
CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront
November 14, 2018
7:42:04 p.m. Eastern
ERIN BURNETT: Breaking news, Michael Avenatti arrested. The lawyer for stormy Daniels, the frequent critic of Donald Trump, the guy who went to Iowa, currently being booked on charges of felony domestic violence in Los Angeles. This is a stunning development. I want to go straight to M.J. Lee. This literally breaking here moments ago. What do you know?
MJ LEE: So, what we know right now is that Michael Avenatti has been arrested for domestic violence. He is under arrest for felony domestic violence and is currently being booked, according to the LAPD, the domestic violence report was taken yesterday in west Los Angeles and the arrest was made today.
Now, just to clarify something, and this is important, TMZ originally reported that this incident involved his estranged wife. He is currently in the process of getting divorced. TMZ then subsequently changed that story to say just a woman, not the wife. And we actually spoke with Michael Avenatti’s wife earlier this evening when this story was breaking. This is Lisa Avenatti and when I spoke with her on the phone, she also said she actually hasn't seen Michael Avenatti in three months, that she was not at his apartment, and she also said that he is somebody who wouldn't ever hit anyone.
Now, his wife's lawyer actually proceeded to put out a statement as well to clarify that this article pertaining to their client is not true, that she was not subject to any incident on Tuesday night, and that she was never at Michael Avenatti’s apartment. Also, just a key sentence here from that statement: “My client states that there has never been domestic violence in her relationship with Michael and that she has never known Michael to be physically violent toward anyone.”
But again, the news is that Michael Avenatti has been arrested for domestic violence. We don't know right now the identity of the person involved. This is obviously going to have big consequences for Michael Avenatti, particularly when it comes to any political aspirations that he might have. The Vermont Democratic Party was supposed to have events with him on Friday and Saturday. Those have been cancelled. They say that they cancelled those events as soon as the news broke, so obviously, very serious allegations against Michael Avenatti. And we have not heard from him.
BURNETT Very serious allegations. Arrested and as you say, we don't know the identity of the woman involved with this, but obviously, in Los Angeles tonight. All right. Thank you very much, M.J. Lee. As we get more, obviously going to update you on that.