The Avenatti and Scaramucci Show Bombs Badly on ‘Colbert’


Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

Back in May, The New York Times reported that Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing the adult actress Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against President Trump, and Anthony Scaramucci, the tough-talkin’ hundred-millionaire whose 11-day tenure as Trump’s White House communications director ended with the autofellatio jab heard ’round the world, were pitching a talk show to cable news networks.

“The prominent television agent Jay Sures discussed with executives at CNN and MSNBC the concept of a program where the two men would square off, according to three people briefed on the issue. Both have become frequent cable network guests—Mr. Avenatti as one of Mr. Trump’s greatest antagonists, and Mr. Scaramucci as a loyalist to the president even after flaming out after less than two weeks at the White House,” reported the Times.

Both men have been accused of shameless opportunism. Scaramucci, after all, first endorsed Scott Walker, then Jeb Bush, then flirted with Marco Rubio before finally landing a spot on the Trump campaign. Avenatti has been a regular fixture on cable-news programs, sometimes taping multiple spots a day, and is embroiled in a messy legal spat—one that could potentially cost his client Daniels the $577,000 that she raised via crowdfunding to cover her legal fees in her battle against Trump and his former consigliere Michael Cohen.

That Avenatti and Scaramucci, supposed ideological foes (and one of whom is representing a woman suing the president), are pitching a talk show together feels craven and wrong, and lends credence to charges of self-promotion. Nevertheless, the duo made their television debut Wednesday night on The Late Show in what felt like an audition for their proposed program.

“My first question is, what is this? And… why is this?” asked Colbert, before mentioning the Times report of them shopping a show together.

They tried to brush it off with jokes, but Colbert called them out on their “shtick.” Scaramucci said they had met “through a mutual friend and had a drink together.” Both men agreed that Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen would be indicted, with Avenatti saying that he was likely to “flip” on Trump.

Throughout the appearance, they tested potential catchphrases—“Are we gonna whine or are we gonna talk?”—and appeared to have their call-and-response shtick down, with Avenatti laying into Trump in sound bites and Mooch delivering a faux-measured response (really, obfuscation), as is his wont. Colbert’s bullshit detector must have been unplugged, because the late-night host appeared more than fine with having his show be exploited by the two aspiring TV stars. He poured them glasses of rosé, as if it were the fourth hour of the Today show, and lobbed them (mostly) softball questions.

After the break, Colbert got a bit more fired up, trying to get Scaramucci to admit that the Trump administration—and by extension, the president—lied when it said the president had nothing to do with a statement that the administration dictated to The New York Times about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who’d promised to deliver damaging information on Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton (it was eventually revealed that President Trump personally dictated the statement). 

Mooch has been asked these questions a million times on a million programs and felt perfectly comfortable pulling out every logical fallacy in the book—accusing the two of ganging up on him, changing the subject, bringing up the president’s Electoral College victory, you name it.

More than anything, however, their fire-and-ice repartee made for pretty boring television—in spite of Colbert’s occasional hysterics. Why anyone would want to watch these two debate the topics of the day is anyone’s guess.