Media critic

At the outset of a much-anticipated brawl with attorney Michael Avenatti on his Fox News program, Tucker Carlson made a reference to the war of words between the two men that preceded the tête-à-tête. “We’ve invited him on the show many times … but he has always declined until tonight,” said Carlson, who has referred to Avenatti, who represents Stormy Daniels, as the “creepy porn lawyer.” “In the past, he’s also demanded that we stop referring to him by a certain unflattering nickname. We haven’t agreed to that demand, but tonight as a gesture of goodwill, we will not use that nickname because we’re always grateful when guests are brave enough to show up in person.”

And yet: Moments before saying just that, the chyron on the Fox News screen displayed this:


As such insults played on the Fox News presentation, Carlson engineered a typically churlish and disgusting spectacle. Yes, there were plenty of interruptions placed at strategic points to prevent Avenatti from making a single, coherent point. Yes, there were questions based on hypocritical premises, such as the time that Carlson accused Avenatti of using “reckless rhetoric” as he charts a political course stemming from his high-profile representation of Daniels, who claimed that she had a sexual relationship with President Trump and later received $130,000 to keep quiet about it. And yes, there was a nervous and high-pitched cackle from Carlson after Avenatti pressured him on whether he’d ever consumed pornography.

As a result, viewers learned nothing about Avenatti, who wasn’t allowed to explain just how Carlson’s driving segment-long premise — that he was thriving as a famous lawyer with aspirations of political stardom, while Daniels is still performing at seedy joints — was off-base.

What viewers did learn was that “Tucker Carlson Tonight” is cable news’s most shameless purveyor of bad faith. In addition to the graphics presentations, Carlson couldn’t even keep his own verbal commitment. At the end of the session, Carlson marveled that he’d accorded Avenatti a long time to make his case. Twelve minutes. “Creepy porn lawyer, great to see you,” said the host. He had backup on the screen:



Following the broadcast, Avenatti had some thoughts, as he always does:

Though Avenatti has appeared endlessly on CNN and MSNBC, his relationship with Fox News has been minimal and strained. Last spring, the lawyer averred that the No. 1 cable-news network didn’t appear to want his commentary, though he reportedly turned down many invites from Carlson. That situation prompted taunts on Carlson’s show, like this one from July: “Well, we have a public service announcement for you. We didn’t expect to be bringing you this, but our crack control room team just minutes ago spotted the ‘creepy porn lawyer’ in his natural habitat on CNN,” said Carlson. “We’ve invited him repeatedly on to this show, and he has repeatedly turned us down. We’re going to ask him one more time, and we know that he’s watching. ‘Creepy porn lawyer,’ you always have a home on this 8 p.m. program anytime. We will clear the decks for you. Hope to see you soon.”

In light of such puerility, Avenatti bears some of the blame for this embarrassment. Perhaps he should have heeded the words of Alex Pareene after the Erik Wemple Blog appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight”: “Don’t Volunteer To Be Ambushed On Television.”