- Spencer Platt/Getty Images
- Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti has a huge and growing fan base.
- His supporters want to see someone take on President Donald Trump using some of Trump’s own tactics – and they believe Avenatti is the only one to do so successfully.
- It has led to them vociferously backing Avenatti through some recent controversies.
As porn star Stormy Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, faced criticism last week for his ubiquitous TV presence, he decided to ask his Twitter followers a question.
“Time for a poll,” he wrote. “Vote as to whether I should a) stay on television and keep disclosing accurate information to the American public or b) get off television and stop disclosing accurate information.”
The poll generated more than 206,000 responses. Such online polls are almost never viewed as credible by polling experts, but the results showed that 93% of respondents wanted Avenatti to keep plugging away on TV as he seemingly seeks to take down President Donald Trump and his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, who organized a hush money payment to Daniels to quiet allegations of a 2006 affair with the president, and whom she is now suing.
But for some of Avenatti’s most passionate fans, even that initial option was not enough.
“c) stay on television and keep disclosing accurate information to the American public SHIRTLESS,” replied Twitter user Justin Waldrop.
That interaction provides a small window into Avenatti’s intense – and growing – fan base, which excitedly eggs on the increasingly prominent attorney with each revelation he releases on Twitter and takes to defending him and attacking others when the lawyer is met with increased scrutiny of either his motives or his career prior to becoming Daniels’ lawyer.
Avenatti briefly locked his Twitter account on Wednesday, only to unlock it later in the day. One user insisted that he keep it locked, because it made existing followers feel like part of a special club.
“You are,” Avenatti responded. “A very important one.”
‘It’s hard not to find interest in the anti-hero that became the hero’
In just 10 weeks, Avenatti went from having roughly 2,000 Twitter followers to more than half a million.
His Instagram account, which he launched late last week, is already approaching the 10,000 follower threshold. Closed Facebook groups supporting Avenatti, such as “Michael Avenatti is da Man” and “Michael Avenatti Fan Club,” have thousands of members. Refinery29 recently wrote an article under the headline “Why Moms On Facebook Are Obsessed With Stormy Daniels’ Lawyer.”
He has gone, as Daily Caller reporter Chuck Ross tweeted last week, from “Stormy Daniels’ lawyer” to “Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti” to simply “Michael Avenatti” when referenced by the press. The attorney has used a Trump-like aggressive media campaign to bolster his arguments against Cohen and Trump, taunting opponents like Trump’s outside attorney Rudy Giuliani (who, in a recent interview with Business Insider, called Avenatti a pimp).
In an email exchange with Business Insider, Waldrop, the Twitter user who suggested Avenatti make shirtless TV appearances, said he believes Avenatti is popular with some on the left because he represents them in a way that others have not.
“If I really had to pinpoint why Avenatti is popular with ‘the left’ it’s because he has become the front man for those that, for the longest time, have been considered outcasts,” he wrote. “‘The ‘left’ feels ostracized, unheard and cajoled.”
- Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
“It’s hard not to find interest in the anti-hero that became the hero,” he said. “I can admit that his appearance and demeanor have made him America’s media darling – a stark contrast to the option on the other side. That being said, if any woman or man so stoically and eloquently defended Stormy Daniels as he has, I’d still support their quest for justice and the truth.”
If damaging information came out against Avenatti, Waldrop, a Dallas-based 31-year-old who works in media, it wouldn’t affect his opinion “on the bigger picture.”
“If anything, I’d be more suspect of the source,” he said.
The massive exposure that has come with Avenatti’s media crusade has paid off in a number of ways for both he and his client. Daniels’ crowdjustice.com page, where she is raising money for her legal bills, has generated more than $500,000 in pledges from approximately 14,000 people. When Avenatti went on ABC’s “The View” and released a photo sketch of the man Daniels said approached her in a parking lot years ago and threatened her to not come forward with her allegations of an affair with Trump, more than 1,500 tips poured in.
There have been side effects to Avenatti’s aggressive media campaign and his exploding level of fame – and his following has defended him tenfold with each controversy in a way that, to an extent, matches defenses put up by the president’s defenders online.
When The Washington Post wrote last week that Avenatti’s publication of Cohen’s financial information may hurt the attorney’s ability to represent Daniels, Avenatti’s fans – whom lawyer and Popehat blogger Ken White refers to as “Avenattos” – responded en-masse to The Post’s tweet, with some bashing the publication and calling for the lawyer to double-down on his tactics. Some even went as far as to suggest a 2020 presidential bid for the attorney.
Avenatti would have to do this if we had real journalists. He has taken up where Woodward and Bernstein left off.
— laura march (@laurama61178079) May 16, 2018
But it's working politically. He's smart. He'll be okay. The Dem candidates will have to take notes from Mr. Avenatti because we have to get more air time in 2020 than Hillary did.
— TRUMP, RESIGN NOW! (@calina_paige) May 15, 2018
You gotta fight fire with Fire. He’s out-thugging them at every turn. Drumpf plays dirty and he’s finally met his match.
— Marta Mendoza (@Martamendoza718) May 15, 2018
Chump and Cohen are scared of him, and that’s really what matters for the moment…
— Resistant (@b_resistant) May 15, 2018
One of those respondents, @b_resistant, told Business Insider in Twitter direct messages that Avenatti has “articulated very well what millions of people worldwide are thinking… or tweeting” about the president.
“He’s obviously planned ahead, gotten his ducks in a row, and that allows him to stay in attack mode and not be distracted by the right’s noise,” they continued, adding, “He’s basically fighting Trump with his own playbook…except his confidence and ability to back up his words feels legit, not contrived, small, and vengeful like Trump. It seems he’s thought several moves ahead, and I like preparedness.”
Another Twitter user, @coffeebooks2016, who responded to The Post’s tweet, praised Avenatti’s “ability to speak truth to power and say it in a way that can be heard over the loud chaos of this president and his goons.” They told Business Insider in direct messages that they were drawn to Avenatti by his standing up to Trump and speaking “the truth in an effective way.”
When The Post wrote about Avenatti threatening The Daily Caller with a lawsuit after it published a story about one of his business ventures and the lawsuits filed against it, Avenatti’s supporters sprang into action.
Using Trump’s own tactics against him
Among the anti-Trump elements of the left, there is a clear yearning for a figure to combat the president using some of his same tactics. Avenatti, they believe, is the only one to do so. And because of that, there is a willingness to overlook some controversies.
This guy is literally all that's keeping a glimmer of good alive right now.
— Shelly (@metonymicalpen) May 15, 2018
We need politicians on the democratic side to be as aggressive as Avenatti. They seems to be squeaky when it comes to go in the offensive.
— 3.14159265 (@jpalgeneral) May 16, 2018
That last supporter, @BirchTreeHill, told Business Insider via Twitter direct messages that since there is “so much hypocrisy on the right and their adoration of Trump that it is refreshing to see someone with savvy and smarts who is willing to patiently uncover the duplicity of the right using some of the same strategies that Trump has successfully used.”
Part of the reason Avenatti is appealing to them is because the attorney is “one of the only Trump antagonists whom Trump doesn’t tweet about, suggesting to me he is an important Trump challenger.”
The Twitter user said their support for Avenatti would lessen if the lawyer “concocted lies” but so far, they “believe he is a truth teller.”
And, his interviews have proven to be enjoyable, albeit calmer than Trump’s.
“It is strange but one of the things I admire most is his calmness,” the Twitter user said. “Watch him during an interview. He rarely interrupts, waits his turn, maintains a stoic demeanor and then ‘wham’ he comes in with his info.”
Avenatti’s battle with the press
Avenatti’s supporters have jumped to his defense repeatedly when publications have covered his business controversy, which involves Tully’s Coffee, a chain that closed all of its locations earlier this year after Avenatti purchased it out of bankruptcy in 2013. Business Insider, The Daily Caller, The Post, and The Seattle Times have all covered that dispute.
For example, supporters were quick to approve his comment to Business Insider on the controversy.
“So what,” Avenatti said when asked about the Tully’s lawsuits. “Many companies abandon locations and have landlord tenant disputes.”
Perfect response. Who gives a damn?! They want to try to make him look bad since he’s bringing the heat!
— Hannah Drake (@HannahDrake628) May 11, 2018
— Diane Dogadorer (@labadorer) May 11, 2018
In turn, that coverage led to Avenatti’s most prominent battle with the press. It came to a head after The Daily Caller released an email labeled “off the record” – an arrangement the publication did not agree to – in which Avenatti threatened to sue the publication for its coverage of Tully’s but did not ask for any corrections.
Speaking to The Post’s Margaret Sullivan, Avenatti said the backlash from The Daily Caller releasing the email was a “learning experience,” adding that he probably wouldn’t threaten to sue a publication in the future.
Still, Avenatti said “there is nothing wrong with me calling them out on it,” when he believes reporting is either inaccurate or unfair.
And on Monday, Avenatti seemed to do just that, tweeting about how an attorney in a lawsuit has “never before” been “personally attacked to this degree on issues that have nothing to do with the lawsuit or who he reps.”
“My personal life, businesses, past clients, etc. have nothing to do with the current cases and the facts of those cases,” he continued. “#Desperate.”
His supporters have stood by him lockstep in his media tussle. As one asserted in response to that tweet, there are only two things from Avenatti’s past that would cause them to stop supporting him.
“Unless I hear you ‘grab em by the *****’ or collude with Putin?” the Twitter user wrote. “IDGAF.”