Donald Trump's presidential campaign on Monday began airing a live nightly video news program, fanning speculation that Trump may seek to capitalize on his supporters' zeal by launching a media network after November's election.
"This is an effort to bring our message directly to you. You don't have to take it through the media filter and the spin they put on it," said Cliff Simms, the Trump adviser who co-hosted the program, which was broadcast on Facebook. "We plan to do this each and every night."
Co-host Boris Epshteyn, a senior adviser to Trump, insisted the Trump-focused news show was not a test run for anything else. "The left-wing media's even trying to spin this, believe it or not," Epshteyn said. "They're saying, well this is 'Trump TV.' That's not what this is. This is our campaign, and most importantly, our candidate being out there and speaking directly to the voters."
Two weeks ago, the Financial Times reported that Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, publisher of the New York Observer, had met with a boutique media deal-making firm about launching a television network.
And an August report in The New York Times indicated that Trump and Kushner had "quietly explored becoming involved with a media holding, either by investing in one or by taking one over."
Trump last month denied having had any talks about starting a media company, but eyebrows were raised when, ahead of last week's final presidential debate, his campaign produced a live program on Facebook starring former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R).
As it turns out, based on Monday's announcement, that was just a pilot. The show aired from what hosts described as the "war room" inside campaign headquarters at Trump Tower in New York. It kicked off with an interview featuring campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and later cut to Tomi Lahren, a conservative commentator with Glenn Beck's "TheBlaze."
Without a debate to stir interest, ratings were down. The audience for Wednesday's show peaked at 200,000 people, according to Politico. Monday's program began with just shy of 60,000 viewers, and within 30 minutes half the audience had moved on.
Trump's scathing attacks on reporters and news outlets have been a staple of his rallies for months, and on Monday he alleged that the media was releasing "dark" and "phony" polls in order to "suppress the vote" of his supporters.
"The media isn't just against me. They're against all of you," Trump shouted to cheers at a Florida rally. "They're against what we represent."