One of the election’s most consistent narratives has been that Donald Trump is only out for himself—that he’s using the national political spotlight to make money and build his brand, which helps explain, for instance, why he frequently turns campaign events into infomercials for his new hotel in Washington, D.C. Trump is reportedly frustrated that he can’t monetize his captive audience. Since the summer, rumors have swirled around the idea of a Trump-centered TV network that would compete with Fox News for elderly, far-right eyeballs.
Trump TV seems to be more than a glimmer in Trump’s eye. Earlier this month, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reportedly met with an investment firm LionTree to discuss a potential network. Before the final debate, the Trump campaign live-streamed what many interpreted as a low-rent test of the concept in the form of a 30-minute show featuring two anchors and General Michael Flynn. And last night, the campaign announced nightly broadcasts at 6:30PM.
The first installment of Trump TV was suitably bizarre. The show promised that it would feature none of the spin you see on “normal” news programs, but then campaign manager Kellyanne Conway came on and spun the hell out of the election, telling anchors Boris Epshteyn and Cliff Sims that everything was fine and Trump had a plausible path to victory. (Epshteyn and Sims, who often finish each other’s sentences, would be an adorable double act if the sentences they were finishing weren’t so absurd and/or horrific.) And The Blaze’s Tomi Lahren, the pundit this election deserves, came on to give Trump’s supporters a pep talk: “If you’re looking for someone that’s got a love of country as deep as Donald Trump—and I’ve seen it—then you’re going to have to join the basket, you’re going to have to jump out of the basket, and you’re going to have to make your voices heard.”
It’s certainly possible that Trump and his allies, particularly Kushner, are using these livestreams as a trial run. But Trump and company may be turning to livestreams simply ecause they have no other options. Even Fox News (aside from Hannity and, to a lesser extent, O’Reilly) isn’t the safe space it was a month or two ago: Like every other network, it is also reporting that Trump is losing. The Facebook broadcasts exist to give Trump the kind of media bubble he craves—and if they lead to something bigger, then so be it.