Attorney Michael Avenatti is an aspiring 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, but his assertion that the party's next presidential nominee should be a white male has fellow Democrats turning on him.
“Saying something like that is the quickest way not to get the Democratic nomination for president,” Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist, said.
Avenatti made the comments about Democrats’ 2020 presidential nominee during an interview with Time magazine published Thursday.
“I think it better be a white male,” Avenatti told Time.
“One of the reasons why I’ve been effective with women — and others, but especially with women — is because I think it’s different when you have a white male making the arguments,” he continued. “I think they carry more weight. Should they carry more weight? Absolutely not. But do they? Yes.”
[Michael Avenatti: Dem nominee for 2020 'better be a white male']
Avenatti quickly came under fire for his comments from Democratic activists, putting the celebrity lawyer on the defensive.
He demanded Time reporter Molly Ball release the full transcript of their interview and took to Twitter to clarify his remarks.
“Let me be clear: I have consistently called on white males like me to step, take responsibility, and be part of stoping [sic] the sexism and bigotry that other white males engage in. It is especially important for them to call out other white males. I make this pt in my speeches,” he tweeted.
But Bannon said remarks like Avenatti’s won’t be tolerated by Democratic activists or party leaders.
“That’s not going to win him any friends if he’s really serious about running to win the Democratic nomination,” he said.
Bannon said Avenatti is likely going to “antagonize” most Democratic primary voters with his comments, which he said are “completely off base” and “completely wrong,” as women in particular have been galvanized by events such as the #MeToo movement and the fight over Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“Look at how much of the Democratic party leadership is either female, black or Latino, and I think that’s where the energy in the party is,” Bannon said. “And I think that would be a great asset to a Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, not a liability as Avenatti says.”
Avenatti has stoked speculation about his political future, telling Variety in August he’s “serious” about challenging President Trump in 2020.
He also appeared at the Iowa State Fair and traveled to New Hampshire several times over the past few weeks. His representation of Stormy Daniels and penchant for picking public fights with Trump stoked interest in his potential candidacy.
While Avenatti believes he would be a worthy challenger to Trump, others disagree.
“I think simply being a Democrat and declaring that you’re going to run for the highest office in the land should not automatically qualify you as a contender for 2020,” Rodell Mollineau, a Democratic strategist and partner at Rokk Solutions, said.
“I saw his path as one-in-a-million to begin with, and I don’t think anything that he says will change that,” he continued.
In addition to taking heat for his comments to Time, Avenatti found himself in more hot water when Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, revealed he referred Avenatti and his client, Julie Swetnick, one of the women who accused Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, to the Justice Department for criminal investigation.
In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray, Grassley said the two should be investigated for a “potential conspiracy to provide false statements to Congress and obstruct a congressional committee investigation.”
Avenatti submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee last month a sworn statement from Swetnick claiming Kavanaugh and a classmate facilitated the gang rapes of women during house parties in the Washington, D.C., area in the early 1980s. Some Democrats were also critical of Avenatti's involvement in the Kavanaugh fight.
But in an interview with NBC News, Swetnick contradicted some of the claims made to the committee, Grassley wrote.
Avenatti said he welcomed the investigation, but went on to demean Grassley.
“Maybe if Grassley was actually a lawyer that knew something about the law, he would realize what he has done. He just opened up Pandora’s box as it relates to Justice Kavanaugh’s conduct. It is Christmas in October!” Avenatti tweeted.