Why did NBC and Time magazine sit on their Avenatti scoops for so long?

I think Time has an excuse. I can’t imagine what NBC’s excuse is.

Remember that newsy quote from him about Democrats needing to nominate a “white male” to stop Trump in 2020? That came from a story in Time magazine. Avenatti responded predictably when liberals began attacking him over it yesterday, crying FAKE NEWS and demanding that Time reporter Molly Ball provide the full context. So she did. Here’s the transcript posted last night of her exchange with Avenatti. Note the date.


Though the statement has struck many as inflammatory, it represents a real, if usually private, debate within the Democratic Party—one that is likely to recur as the next presidential election approaches. Avenatti, who once worked as a researcher on political campaigns, clarified his position on Thursday…

Here’s what Avenatti told TIME in an interview on June 25 in New York City, before he began publicly considering a presidential run…

Time was sitting on a quote which it had every reason to know might explode his standing with the left, and they sat on it for four months — throughout Stormygate travails, his 2020 chatter, and his bizarre entry into the Kavanaugh wars? How come?

I think Time’s editors would say the answer is simple. Ball and her co-author were working on a lengthy profile about Avenatti and didn’t want to scoop themselves — or alienate him ahead of follow-up interviews — by running the “white male” quote before it was ready. Saving it for the profile guaranteed that many more people would read that story than would have done so if the “white male” quote were already out there and old news. And it’s not as though the quote bore directly on anything Avenatti’s been involved in lately. It’d be one thing if they had sat on it until the presidential primaries are over, but the 2020 campaign won’t begin in earnest until next month. They may have blown up Avenatti right as he’s preparing to lift off the launchpad.


How does NBC justify sitting on its own Avenatti scoop, though? John wrote about it last night. One of the alleged corroborating witnesses in the Swetnick matter told the network that her affidavit contained a claim she had never made, namely that she allegedly saw Brett Kavanaugh spiking the punch at parties when she was a teenager.

But less than 48 hours before Avenatti released her sworn statement on Twitter, the same woman told NBC News a different story.

Referring to Kavanaugh spiking the punch, “I didn’t ever think it was Brett,” the woman said to reporters in a phone interview arranged by Avenatti on Sept. 30 after repeated requests to speak with other witnesses who might corroborate Swetnick’s claims. As soon as the call began, the woman said she never met Swetnick in high school and never saw her at parties and had only become friends with her when they were both in their 30s.


But reached by phone independently from Avenatti on Oct. 3, the woman said she only “skimmed” the declaration. After reviewing the statement, she wrote in a text on Oct. 4 to NBC News: “It is incorrect that I saw Brett spike the punch. I didn’t see anyone spike the punch…I was very clear with Michael Avenatti from day one.”…

In a subsequent text on Oct. 5, she wrote, “I will definitely talk to you again and no longer Avenatti. I do not like that he twisted my words.”


October 5th? That’s the day Susan Collins announced she would vote to confirm Kavanaugh. For days before then, with a Supreme Court confirmation hanging by a thread and Avenatti flogging Swetnick’s accusations to anyone who’d listen, NBC had reason to believe he was “twisting the words” of a key witness and possibly engaged in legal malpractice. And … they didn’t tell anyone.

It can’t be a fact-checking issue. As long as they’re confident that the person texting them was the person who signed the affidavit, it was a simple matter of reporting out the discrepancies between her texts and the document. What possible explanation for their silence can there be except the obvious one?


They didn’t want to take the risk of derailing the Democrats’ last best chance to stop Kavanaugh at a decisive moment. Isn’t it as simple as that?

And if it is, an ominous question must be asked: If the Dems had managed to flip Collins and Flake and bork him, would this NBC report have ever been published? Imagine the outrage on the right if Trump’s nominee had been defeated with help from Avenatti, only to discover that a huge media organization had evidence of chicanery all along.

If it did end up being published, I’m going to guess that it wouldn’t have been published the midterms were safely behind us.


Exit question: Did Avenatti’s run of bad news lately further encourage NBC to finally reveal this? When he was just the lawyer tormenting Trump and Michael Cohen over Stormygate, he was the media’s darling. But now he’s the guy who may have screwed up the Democrats’ Kavanaugh effort, the guy who can’t manage to pay his business expenses, the guy prone to musing about how the Democrats need a white guy in 2020. God only knows what other Avenatti dirt the media has been sitting on and might be ready to publish now that his usefulness to the cause is diminishing.

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