News and Commentary

Michael Avenatti Sued Fox News Over A Minor Reporting Error. His Case Was Thrown Out.
Celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti walks out of a New York court house after a hearing in a case where he is accused of stealing $300,000 from a former client, adult-film actress Stormy Daniels on July 23, 2019 in New York City.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Media outlets make mistakes all the time. Sometimes those mistakes are egregious, sometimes they show the outlet’s political bias, and sometimes they are just minor mistakes.

Former attorney and liberal media darling Michael Avenatti tried to sue Fox News over one of the latter errors, a minor misstep when the outlet reported in 2018 that Avenatti had been arrested for alleged domestic violence.

In his lawsuit against the news outlet, Avenatti said Fox reported he had been charged with a crime when he wasn’t. For this, Avenatti sued for defamation. On Friday, the Delaware Third Circuit Court dismissed the complaint, the Daily Caller reported.

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

Bibas continued by saying “most” of Fox’s reporting on the incident was “substantially true” and that “Avenatti does not plausibly plead that Fox or its employees knew that the statements were false or recklessly disregarded that possibility.”

Further, Bibas wrote, Avenatti “fails to allege any recoverable damages.”

Avenatti’s big mistake in his libel suit, Bibas explained, was that he didn’t simply request a correction before filing his lawsuit.

“Avenatti makes one final error. California law requires that a plaintiff who seeks ‘damages for the publication of a libel in a daily or weekly news publications, or of a slander by radio broadcast’ ask for a correction within twenty days of his knowledge of the publication,” Bibas wrote. “Avenatti did not ask for a retraction.”

In that event, Avenatti would be limited to “special damages,” but he had to allege and prove those damages. Bibas wrote that Avenatti “has not done this either” and denied he even needed to do this.

Bibas dismissed Avenatti’s lawsuit “without prejudice,” meaning the disgraced attorney can amend his complaint and try to seek damages again, but it is unlikely to succeed based on the issues Bibas pointed out.

In a statement to The Daily Wire, a Fox News spokesperson said:

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.

Further, Avenatti was sentenced to 30 months in prison for attempting to extort Nike out of tens of millions of dollars. As The Daily Wire reported last month, Avenatti cried in court before his sentencing as Judge Paul Gardephe of the Southern District of New York lectured the celebrity attorney about his conduct.

“Mr. Avenatti’s conduct was outrageous. He hijacked his client’s claims, and he used those claims to further his own agenda — which was to extort millions of dollars from Nike to enrich himself,” Gardephe reportedly said. “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 that apply to everyone else didn’t apply to him.”

The Nike case was not the only legal issue Avenatti is facing. He still faces two additional criminal trials, one for multiple allegations of fraud in California and one allegedly stealing a book advance from porn star Stormy Daniels, whom Avenatti previously represented.

This article has been updated to include a statement from Fox News.

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