Trump TV is a thing now, although not the full-featured cable news network that was spitballed last summer as a fallback for Trump if he lost the election. It’s a video series on his personal Facebook page. The first clip, “anchored” by his daughter-in-law Lara Trump, appeared nine days ago. The new one below, featuring CNN alum McEnany, was posted yesterday. Interesting that the campaign went outside the family to bring in someone familiar to Trump fans from cable news to host this thing. Presumably that means they’re planning to do clips more frequently, as McEnany wouldn’t have quit a regular CNN gig just to do 90-second spots once a week on Trump’s Facebook page. Unless, that is, this was dangled at her with the promise of eventually joining the White House communications team.
Critics are calling this state TV but they’re getting surprising pushback from the head of the White House Correspondents’ Association.
Trend started with Obama team’s weekly video recap of what it saw as the “news,” called White House Week. https://t.co/fKzJG2ptBO
— Steve Thomma (@stevethomma) August 7, 2017
Actually, it was “West Wing Week” but close enough. I’m sure I posted that a few times during the Obama era to comment on it but I didn’t realize until yesterday that they cranked out episodes of it every week for eight years. And that wasn’t a campaign production. It was produced by the White House itself, with the press secretary narrating. Compare and contrast the McEnany video with a random edition of WWW below. A YouTube search reveals that the number of views for a typical episode of “West Wing Week” was pitiful, often no more than 25,000 or so. Lara Trump’s Facebook video for Trump topped two million views and McEnany’s is already north of one million by comparison. Whether that’s a testament to Facebook’s reach, the Trump team’s greater promotional savvy, the sheer novelty of the new Trump videos, or something else, decide for yourself.
My hunch is that it’s a byproduct of Trump’s complaints about “fake news.” “West Wing Week” doesn’t play like an ersatz news broadcast to me; it’s more of a behind-the-scenes look at the White House to give the viewer a sense of personal connection with Obama, although the goal — highlighting his achievements — is the same as the Trump clip. The Trump clip is styled as a substitute news broadcast, though. It uses the news convention of the talking head with a window over her shoulder and it’s got a person known for appearing on a real news network front and center. That’s why they went and got McEnany, I assume: For all the grumbling Trump does about CNN being “fake news,” they wanted to leverage McEnany’s association with the network to give their own broadcast a bit more “real news” credibility. And in case all of that is too subtle, McEnany explicitly says at the end of the clip, “That’s the real news.” They’re offering this to Trumpers on Facebook explicitly as an alternative to what CNN and MSNBC are covering. And judging by the number of views they’re getting, they’ve got support.
I’m curious to see if they do more with it than just these quick-hit highlight reels. Remember, Anthony Scaramucci suggested producing a morning show on the White House lawn replete with a desk and guests in order to provide an honest-to-goodness state-media alternative to the dour, hard-hitting coverage of shows like, er, “Fox & Friends.” Are they going to have McEnany hosting a “show” on Trump’s Facebook page? Will they bring in other pro-Trump cable news personalities like Jeffrey Lord?