Michael Avenatti dove head first into the murky waters of the ongoing multimedia feud between Sean Hannity and Jim Acosta Wednesday night. Criticizing Hannity for “taking shots" at CNN and its chief White House correspondent, the outspoken lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels challenged the Fox News host to a debate on live TV.
“Stop playing whiffle ball with the [White House's] hand picked guests and climb in the hardball box with some guests that might actually punch back," Avenatti tweeted.
Bashing his client Stormy Daniels as “old news” for “low-rated" shows, Hannity quickly attempted to torpedo Avenatti’s attempt at interjecting himself into his already heated exchange with Acosta.
The heated back-and-forth between Hannity and Acosta began after the CNN journalist tweeted video of the hostile crowd at Tuesday's Trump rally in Tampa, Florida. Acosta and his crew were met with incessant heckling as they tried to perform their jobs. In addition to flipping off the camera, the president's supporters screamed things like “CNN sucks” and “stop lying” at the journalists.
On Twitter, Acosta voiced concern that “the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media” would ultimately result in violence.
“We should not treat our fellow Americans this way,” Acosta pleaded. “The press is not the enemy.”
Hannity appealed directly to Acosta on Fox News that night, advising the CNN White House correspondent to “have an open mind, an open heart and maybe a little humility” if he wants to face a crowd of Trump supporters without fearing for his safety.
“If you want to earn the respect of all Americans . . . Maybe try reporting the entire story. Maybe try getting rid of the bias,” Hannity said. “That’s why Americans don’t trust you or fake news CNN. You pretend to be fair and unbiased journalists – you’re not.”
Acosta again took to Twitter to respond to the criticism, calling out Hannity for “injecting poison into the nation’s political bloodstream” and referring to him as a “propagandist for profit.”
Hannity followed up by labeling Acosta as "fake news" and deploying the hashtag “#CNNSUCKS.”
“Jimmy Acosta sorry your precious feelings are hurt & that people see through your lying bullshit for what it is,” Hannity tweeted.
During his show Wednesday night, Hannity seemed to backtrack on his fiery rhetoric in order to confront the growing public hostility of some Americans towards the press.
“I want every journalist in this country, everyone – I don’t care who you work for – to be safe,” Hannity said before directly addressing Acosta. “I’ll tell you right now: I will be the first person to come to your defense if I’m there and anyone ever dares lay a hand on you.”
After the Twitter fire flamed out, Acosta later asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to say on the record that the press is not the enemy of the people during Thursday's White House press briefing.
Pivoting to a claim that the media has repeatedly attacked her, Sanders refused to say as much.
“It’s ironic, Jim, that not only you and the media attack the president for his rhetoric, when they frequently lower the level of conversation in this country,” Sanders said. “Repeatedly, the media resorts to personal attacks without any content other than to incite anger.”