Critic's Notebook: 'Trump Tower Live' Is Not Ready for Primetime
The Trump campaign's live talk show presented on Facebook is lamer than the lamest of "lamestream media."
There have been three episodes of the Trump campaign's live talk show presented on Facebook so far, and if they're indeed meant as a test run for a future "Trump TV," CNN and Fox News shouldn't be losing any sleep. Boasting production values that make Wayne's World seem state-of-the-art and all but begging for an appearance by a crochet-bikini-clad Robin Byrd to provide some class, Trump Tower Live is DOA.
The show is supposed to come out nightly at 6:30 p.m. until the election, opposite the network TV broadcasts — again, Lester Holt and Scott Pelley needn't be worried — but that schedule lasted just one night. The second and third episodes each began roughly 45 minutes late, delayed by live coverage of Trump rallies.
The broadcast's not-ready-for-primetime anchors are Trump campaign advisors Boris Epshteyn, displaying the smooth charm of a Depression-era gangster, and Cliff Sims, founder of something called Yellowhammer News. They host the show while standing behind an array of Apple laptop computers in what they keep referring to as the campaign's "war room" (a term which, to borrow one of Trump's favorite lines, would have George Patton and Douglas MacArthur "spinning in their graves"). A news-style ticker-tape ribbon appears at the bottom of the screen, featuring laudatory headlines about Trump that, in their sheer silliness, would make The Onion proud.
The broadcast's professed goal is to communicate directly with the voters and, in Epshteyn's words, "bypass the left-wing media, which screws everything." This essentially means that Trump supporters can say whatever the hell they want without being confronted with — what do you call them? — facts. At one point Epshteyn glowingly referenced Trump's recent "Gettysburg Address," which should have Abraham Lincoln's descendants suing for copyright infringement.
The first guest was Kellyanne Conway, who is clearly going to need a very long vacation when all this is over. No matter what you think of the indefatigable campaign manager, you have to admit that she's very good at her job; she could spin a concentration camp as being "affordable housing." The segment ended with a break — yes, there are commercials, albeit all of them Trump's — followed by Epshteyn and Sims kibitzing some more. Standing in the background was Conway, who turned around, realized to her dismay that she was still on camera, and darted out of the frame like a deer on a country road.
Conway was followed by Tomi Lahren, the 24-year-old host of an eponymous show on The Blaze, who makes Reese Witherspoon's Legally Blonde character look deep by comparison. Rallying her fellow "deplorables" — she meant the term ironically, but hey, if the shoe fits — she railed about Hillary's campaign sending people dressed as ducks to Trump rallies. She also described the Trump family as "valiant warriors," which is only true if you're talking about their brave efforts to rid the world of dangerous elephants.
RNC communication director Sean Spicer enthused about Trump's momentum in the polls and made the claim that the candidate's "ground game is so much better" than Clinton's. It was a bold statement about a campaign sinking so rapidly that a band should be playing "Nearer, My God to Thee" while deck chairs are rearranged.
Campaign worker Campbell Burr joined the hosts on the second night, apparently filling the quota for at least one perky young blonde per episode. The first guest was "America's Mayor," Rudy Giuliani, thankfully not wearing the glasses that make him look like an evil Dickens character.
"We're basically electing a criminal," Rudy railed. "Hillary Clinton seems to like terrorists," he thundered, which seems to be the only way he talks these days. "They began as small-time Arkansas grifters," he said about Hillary and Bill, sounding like the narrator of a History Channel documentary about Bonnie and Clyde.
He was followed by former New York Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey, who Epshteyn grandiosely addressed as "Doctor" (she has a Ph.D. in history). To provide a little background, McCaughey is such a repellant figure that George Pataki dropped her from the ticket when he ran for reelection. Demonstrating true political conviction, she sought the Democratic nomination before unsuccessfully running against him as the Liberal Party's nominee. She later sued her wealthy ex-husband for $40 million, claiming that he reneged on his promise to fund her campaign.
McCaughey spent her segment railing against the failings of the Affordable Care Act, followed by the hosts asking their Twitter followers to define Obamacare in three words.
"Unaffordable," McCaughey shouted, apparently not getting the rules. "That's three syllables," chided Sims, clearly not the brightest bulb in this show's chandelier.
The third episode's special guest was Trump campaign advisor Peter Navarro, whom Epshteyn introduced as a "world-renowned economist," presumably for having written such scholarly tomes as If It's Raining in Brazil, Buy Starbucks. (If I keep quoting Epshteyn, it's because he barely lets the hapless Sims get a word in edgewise). Navarro talked about how illegal immigration is particularly hurting job chances for blacks and Hispanics, an argument presumably designed to propel Trump's poll standing with minorities into at least the high single digits.
Tiresomely preaching to the choir, Trump Tower Live makes your typical public access show seem glamorous by comparison. The show attracted some 60,000 live viewers for its first episode, according to The New York Times (not that you can believe that lefty rag). It promptly dropped to 23,000 viewers the following night. At this rate, it'll be hitting negative numbers well before Election Day.