Lara Trump’s Real News Updates and Real News Insights capture Donald Trump, as you might expect, in the most flattering light possible.
The president’s reelection campaign has for months been staging these newscasts and talking-head segments, hosted by his daughter-in-law and featuring a parade of pro-Trump commentators.
The shows — housed on the official Trump Facebook page — are intended as the antidote to mainstream media and make Sinclair and Fox News seem tame by comparison. In some ways, the segments are also an antidote to Trump himself, giving his supporters open range to parrot talking points on major issues, even as the president struggles to stay on message, as he did Thursday morning when he meandered through an unexpectedly long call-in to Fox & Friends.
Until recently, Lara Trump (married to Eric) was a backstage player in the family business, free of Jared and Ivanka’s palace intrigue. But she has been a visible campaign surrogate and has media background as a former associate producer for the tabloid show Inside Edition.
"Now I work with the campaign, and I do a little what we call a real news segment, if you like to check out the Facebook page … it's there every week,” she told hundreds of guests who gathered in January at Mar-a-Lago, her father-in-law’s exclusive resort in Palm Beach, Florida, to celebrate the first year of the Trump presidency. “I'm very proud to bring you what is really happening out there."
The realness cannot be emphasized enough on Trump TV. Lara Trump, who tapes the shows from Trump Tower in New York and occasionally from Palm Beach, often signs off with, “That’s the real news for today.”
Episodes range from a few minutes for Updates of what the president did over the past week, to 10 minutes or longer for Insights from supporters. Regulars, who join via a remote feed, include Trump spokespersons such as Katrina Pierson (who already is working for the reelection campaign), Kayleigh McEnany (who has a similar role with the Republican National Committee), and Trump loyalists Diamond and Silk. Others are more spur of the moment: The guest for the recent “The Silent Majority Is Back” episode was booked after video of him protesting the cancellation of a gun show went viral.
“One of the ways President Trump won the election was by overcoming the biased, fake news media filter and speaking directly with the American people through social media, rallies, and other events,” Lara Trump said in a statement provided to BuzzFeed News. “Naturally, we have been following the president’s lead at the campaign. This enables us to maintain a meaningful connection with millions of Americans who are seeing the benefits of President Trump’s policies. We are especially pleased with the response to our Real News weekly updates and interviews with top media commentators, policy experts, and citizen advocates, as they also go beyond all of the fake news and convey real stories about the president’s success so far in Making America Great Again.”
Since the shows premiered last July, many have pointed out the factually flawed assertions and propaganda vibes. An unsurprising theme has emerged: Democrats are obstructionists, disruptors, and — generally speaking — very unfair to the president! Over the last month alone, episode titles have included “Resistant Democrats,” “Divisive Democrats,” and this week’s “Democrats Plotting Their Path Back to Power,” which featured McEnany.
“Now Kayleigh, it used to be that regardless of policy differences, Democrats would negotiate in good faith to get the best deal they could,” said Lara Trump, winding up one of her standard questions. “Today, extremist politics prevent that. Can you explain this to me?”
McEnany swung for the fences. “Difficult to explain, because it’s so absolutely insane,” she replied, as Trump arched an eyebrow and nodded her head in approval. “But what we’re seeing is the president, the ultimate dealmaker, coming up with good middle-of-the-road deals.”
Head-nodding is the default setting on Real News. Trump routinely will interject with an “I agree!” or a “So great!” when a guest is on a roll. Sometimes she even answers her own questions: “Isn’t every week with President Trump even more exciting than the last? I really think so,” she said this month when introducing John Fredericks, a pro-Trump radio host.
Fredericks, more than happy to play along, replied, “It only gets better week by week.”
There’s clinical analysis.
“Gina, you understand the Democrats and their media really well, and you’re a behavioral psychology professional,” Lara Trump said in a segment with Gina Loudon, a Trump campaign media adviser who has a PhD in human development and goes by Dr. Gina. “Can you explain the thinking behind the ongoing resistance to President Trump despite all of his success?”
Dr. Gina’s diagnosis: “Yes, they’re scared to death of him.”
And there’s occasional disagreement about what ails America.
“Do you agree that Democrats are so wedded to the politics of division that they lose sight of the principles that are common to all Americans?” Lara Trump asked Pierson this month.
“You know, I think that you put it lightly,” Pierson responded. “This isn’t just losing sight of principles. We have to ask ourselves, ‘What principles do Democrats even stand for?’”
In this regard, Trump TV is more predictable and more on-message than Donald Trump. Congressional Republicans frightened about losing their majorities in this year’s midterms want nothing more than the president to consistently promote tax cuts and other policy achievements. But ask Trump to do that and he might literally toss aside the talking points — or call into Fox & Friends to talk about the investigative proceedings against Michael Cohen.
“It’s meant to provide very clear messaging on a topic,” Mica Mosbacher, a national adviser for the Trump 2020 campaign who has appeared as a guest on the show, told BuzzFeed News. “It allows [Lara Trump] to probe and go a little bit in-depth, and we think it's refreshing because we don't have multiple guests and don't have individuals talking over each other.”
Mosbacher said their goal is to make sure Trump’s base has a clear idea of their messaging on key topics without the “distractions” and “white noise.” “What it allows us to do as a campaign is reach a targeted audience,” she said. “We're preaching to the choir.”
Trump TV not only devotes high energy to selling the president’s policies, it also strives to inoculate him against criticism that he indulges too many of his reckless impulses.
“Tony, have you noticed how experts in Washington feared Trump’s tweets could start a nuclear war, yet he might just achieve a peaceful solution, with, of all places, North Korea?” Lara Trump asked retired Army Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a Trump supporter and former intelligence officer, during one episode. “Do you think the left is ever going to acknowledge the wisdom of the president’s strategy and this sort of chess that he’s playing, like you’re saying?”
Trump TV also is more diverse than the president’s cabinet: Many of the talking heads are minorities, women, and twentysomethings. (Madison Gesiotto is “one of the best millennial supporters of the president that I know of,” Lara Trump proclaimed in one episode.)
The effectiveness of this all is largely a mystery. The most popular episodes receive at least 600,000 views on Facebook, plus views on YouTube, Twitter, and other platforms — but obviously, there’s no public metric on how long people are watching.
Trump allies are nonetheless pleased with the performance. They see it as an extension of a social media strategy that combines Trump’s unfiltered, direct-to-the-voter tweets with the highly targeted Facebook advertising that was a key weapon during the 2016 campaign.
“Turn on CNN or MSNBC any night and you’ll struggle to hear pro-Trump voices,” said Harlan Hill, a campaign adviser and Real News guest who has taped other videos for the Facebook page. “If you look at the view counts on the videos, there’s a significant desire for the pro-Trump point of view. My latest video on there racked up over 1.1 million views in about 24 hours.”
It’s unclear if the media-obsessed president is among those who have watched.
Mosbacher said given Trump's "time constraints," it might be difficult for him to watch, but she added that everyone in his orbit is well aware of the shows. "I would say that the campaign is definitely coordinated in such a way that we're staying on direct messaging," she said, adding that even if Trump has not seen the segments, it wouldn't be a problem. "There is nothing controversial — we're just getting the plain truth and nothing but the truth out there."