Just because Republicans cited Avenatti, of course, doesn’t mean that he actually hurt the cause. But putting Swetnick’s allegation directly into the public domain — rather than running it through media vetting or just going to law enforcement — put Democrats in a tough spot. Did they treat all the women’s allegations as credible, or did they focus on some and confess (either publicly or implicitly) to being more dubious about others? If they did the latter, it would lend credence to the idea that some of these allegations were indeed frivolous. It would put them in the position of explaining why one largely uncorroborated allegation was important and believable, but another wasn’t.

Democrats certainly didn’t focus on Swetnick as much as the other accusers, most notably Ford. But some senators, including Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), did suggest that the allegation was credible and should be treated seriously during the confirmation hearings and the FBI’s investigation. It wasn’t ultimately included in either.

None of this is to say that Swetnick’s allegation has been disproved or is even necessarily untrue. But Avenatti’s decision to go it alone and attach himself to the process certainly made it easier to paint it a certain way. In an interview, I asked him why he didn’t go through the media first, to see whether reporters could vet it and perhaps lend it some credibility. He called it a “ridiculous” idea.