After Boosting Hoax Claims, NBC Downplays Avenatti’s Extortion Conviction

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As NewsBusters media editor and research analyst Bill D’Agostino documented last year, NBC News and MSNBC gifted lawyer Michael Avenatti with 113 TV appearances, with Today giving him his first, as he pursued cases against President Trump. On Friday, the so-called “creepy porn lawyer” was convicted of trying to extort shoemaker Nike for $25 million. Despite their intertwined history, NBC Nightly News kept Avenatti at an arm’s length.

In a news brief lasting a mere 20 seconds, anchor Lester Holt sprinted past Avenatti’s conviction:

LESTER HOLT: Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who represented porn actress Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against President Trump, was found guilty today of trying to extort tens of millions of dollars from Nike. Prosecutors said Avenatti wanted the money to keep silent about evidence he said he had involving misconduct by Nike employees in recruiting college basketball players.

Holt didn’t even care to note that Avenatti was facing around 40 years in prison along with other charges of defrauding his clients, including the one he was famous for, Stormy Daniels.

It’s understandable why NBC would want to get the story behind them, because they took his claims against Nike seriously. On April 8, of last year, correspondent Anne Thompson boasted that Avenatti was “playing his brand of hardball with Nike: accusing the athletic giant of bribing more than 100 college basketball players, including some of its biggest stars to attend schools with Nike contracts.”

 

 

“You know what's disgraceful? Bribing armature athletes in need and putting them at [sic] their families at risk for federal charges all in the interest of corporate profits,” Avenatti proclaimed in an interview with NBC.

And that’s not the first time NBC was taken for a ride by Avenatti. Back in 2018, when the media were smearing then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the network seized on Avenatti-client Julie Swetnick who claimed a teenage Kavanaugh ran a gang-rape ring.

The claims were so lacking in credibility that the Senate Judiciary Committee referred Avenatti and Swetnick to the FBI for investigation on charges of lying to Congress. NBC refused to give airtime to that development. Meanwhile, an NBCNews.com article admitted the claims they pushed were flimsy to begin with and NBC knew it before publishing.

NBC wasn’t the only broadcast network to downplay Avenatti’s conviction. PBS anchor Judy Woodruff only allowed 21 seconds for the story on NewsHour. “The attorney who once pressed an adult film star's lawsuits against President Trump, was convicted today of trying to extort Nike,” she reported. “A federal jury in New York found Michael Avenatti threatened the sportswear giant's reputation unless it paid him $25 million. He could get 42 years in prison.”

In sharp contrast, CBS Evening News led their newscast with the conviction. Anchor Norah O’Donnell gave it two minutes, 16 seconds and noted: “For a time, Avenatti was a fixture on cable TV and Twitter.” ABC’s World News Tonight gave Avenatti’s conviction two minutes, eight seconds.

The transcripts are below:

NBC Nightly News
February 14, 2020
7:04:57 p.m. Eastern

LESTER HOLT: Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who represented porn actress Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against President Trump, was found guilty today of trying to extort tens of millions of dollars from Nike. Prosecutors said Avenatti wanted the money to keep silent about evidence he said he had involving misconduct by Nike employees in recruiting college basketball players.

PBS’s NewsHour
February 14, 2020
7:16:59 p.m. Eastern

JUDY WOODRUFF: The attorney who once pressed an adult film star's lawsuits against President Trump, was convicted today of trying to extort Nike. A federal jury in New York found Michael Avenatti threatened the sportswear giant's reputation unless it paid him $25 million. He could get 42 years in prison.

Research NB Daily Bias by Omission Broadcast Television NBC NBC Nightly News Video Michael Avenatti Lester Holt

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