Disgraced Avenatti’s Fox News lawsuit dropped by judge who found claims ‘substantially true’

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Disgraced, crying jailbird Michael Avenatti has suffered yet another stinging defeat, with a federal judge throwing out his defamation suit against Fox News on the grounds that the claims the network had made about him “were substantially true.”

One such claim was host Laura Ingraham’s joke that he was “an arrest waiting to happen.”

Whoops …

That being said, the lawsuit referenced a flurry of remarks made by various Fox News and Fox Business Network hosts after his first arrest in 2018 on allegations that he’d been physically abusive toward his former partner, actress Mareli Miniutti.

In his ruling, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas summarized all of the lawsuit’s complaints.

“Bret Baier, for instance, said that ‘[Avenatti] has been arrested on a domestic violence charge.’ He noted that Avenatti’s estranged wife had filed a felony domestic violence report and that ‘her face was swollen and bruised,'” he wrote.

“Later, Sean Hannity commented that he had ‘been charged with [a] serious charge, that would be felony domestic violence.’ And a scrolling screen statement on the Ingraham Angle read: ‘Los Angeles Police said Wed. Avenatti had been charged with felony domestic violence ….,'” he added.

All of these were obviously factual statements. In fact, even The New York Times ran the story, although it framed it as him being arrested “on suspicion of domestic violence.” It’s this semantical difference that appears to be at the root of Avenatti’s complaints.

At issue is that the case was eventually dropped in 2019 for reasons that remain unclear. However, at the time of his arrest, there was no denying that he’d been charged with domestic violence. It didn’t mean he was guilty, but he had been charged.

The summary continues by highlighting complaints about host Maria Bartiromo accurately describing pictures of Avenatti’s alleged victim.

“Other coverage focused on the alleged victim. Maria Bartiromo stated that the victim ‘was all bruised, [with a] black eye.’ Avenatti, she said, was ‘running after’ the woman before his arrest, saying, ‘[S]he hit me first,'” Bibas noted.

The part about the black eye does appear to be inaccurate.

In an interview with the Daily Mail back in May of 2019, Miniutti made it fairly clear that she’d never received a black eye from him.

“I’m not saying I had a black eye or I was almost killed, that wasn’t the case, but it doesn’t make it okay to treat a woman like that,” she said.

“Still other commentary was more colorful: Raymond Arroyo implied that Avenatti was familiar with ‘bull__.’ Laura Ingraham opined that Avenatti was an ‘arrest waiting to happen’ and added that he ‘has a heck of a right hook,'” according to the judge’s summary.

This reporting, Avenatti had argued, constituted defamation. Bibas disagreed. Regarding mistakes like the one Bartiromo made, he described them as minor. As for everything else, it was either unvarnished truth or “protected” opinion.

“News outlets are not liable for minor mistakes, especially when reporting on public figures and matters of public concern. Michael Avenatti, a famous lawyer, was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. Fox News covered his arrest,” Bibas ruled.

“He sued, claiming that its reporting defamed him. But most of its statements were substantially true. And Avenatti does not plausibly plead that Fox or its employees knew that the statements were false or recklessly disregarded that possibility. He also fails to allege any recoverable damages. I will thus dismiss his complaint,” he added.

In a statement, a Fox News spokesperson said the network was “pleased” with the overall decision: “We are pleased with the Court’s swift decision in favor of FOX News. Today’s ruling is a victory for journalists everywhere, who should not be intimidated into silence when bullies like Michael Avenatti file baseless multimillion-dollar lawsuits.”

View his full ruling below:

2021 08 13 MEMORANDUM OPINI… by Sarah Rumpf

This may just be one of Avenatti’s most humiliating defeats. If he wasn’t behind bars right now, he’d probably be ranting on Twitter.

Last month, he was found guilty of attempting to extort over $20 million from Nike and subsequently sentenced to 2-1/2 years in prison.

According to reports, he burst out crying in court.

The judge wasn’t impressed by his tears.

“Mr. Avenatti, had become drunk on the power of his platform or what he perceived the power of his platform to be. He had become someone who operated as if the laws and rules which apply to everyone else didn’t apply to him,” the judge reportedly said.

However, he ultimately gave the disgraced former attorney a break because prosecutors had let his co-conspirator walk away “scot-free.”

Vivek Saxena

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