If you haven’t watched One America News Network, you’re not alone. Available in only 12 million homes, the San Diego-based 24/7 news channel feels almost like a vlog rather than a huge journalism operation. Loose and conversational, and openly partisan, you can’t say it isn’t entertaining, especially if you’re politically conservative. This channel was launched expressly for people who think Fox News isn’t conservative enough.
But even if you haven’t watched it, you’ve no doubt heard about it by now, thanks to a highly publicized appearance by Donald Trump on tonight’s episode of the nightly news talk show On Point, guest-hosted by Sarah Palin. Interest in a Trump-Palin showdown was so high that the channel’s official website was overwhelmed by traffic hours before airtime, crashing the site around 3:00 PM this afternoon. “So much interest in the interview of Donald J. Trump, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz tonight by Sarah Palin at 10 pm EST that you crashed the oann.com website!,” read a statement from the network on its official Facebook page. “It will be up shortly – Thank you for the interest in One America News Network!”
That promise didn’t come true however. The site was still down at the show’s start, forcing interested parties who don’t have the network on their cable service to Roku, Amazon Firesticks and third-party streaming services. Great press for a network few had even heard of before this week. We’ll see if it pays off for the network in an expansion to other cable providers after tonight.
It didn’t pay off for viewers during the show, however, being by and large a textbook softball game consisting of pre-taped interviews. In addition to Trump, Palin hosted republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, all of whom were given an open mic to make their presidential pitches in the friendliest possible atmosphere. So friendly at times that the interviews could be boiled down mostly to expressions of mutual admiration, with Palin’s folksy affectations peppered in.
First up, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, perfecting his moderate persona and emphasizing a gentler presentation of his beliefs, what he called his “reformer’s heart” that is “informed by my faith.” Softballs were lobbed by Palin and Bush batted them back, mainly hawking his upcoming e-book while genteelly hammering Hillary Clinton over the ongoing email scandal.
Ted Cruz was next and he at least showed some more fire. Citing Cruz’s intensely religious campaign – he’s basically pitching himself as the defender of the faith to undecided Republicans – Palin kicked off the chat with an absolute all-time groaner: it would be great to have the country under “Cruz control.” See?
Palin essentially gave Cruz free rein to talk about religious issues, and he delivered, promising that if elected he’ll protect the religious rights of all Americans. As part of this, he vowed to stop enforcing aspects of the Affordable Care Act. Soon after, he turned his sights on Planned Parenthood, angrily denouncing the organization as “murder in commerce on the sale of human life.” Burn.
But you tuned in for Trump, who showed up in the last quarter of the hour piped in from Trump Tower so obviously pre-recorded you could still see shoppers walking behind him. Alas, those of you hoping The Donald would deliver one of his trademark headline-grabber quotes walked away disappointed. He was instead very on topic, bringing perhaps the most managed public appearance he’s had in weeks. “I’ve said it ever since he made the sacrifice to go on the campaign trail – voters crave the anti-establishment candidate,” so Palin introduced him, and that sets the tone more aptly than I can. Compliments for one another came almost as often as questions, and questions, when they did come, yielded little we haven’t heard before. Trump largely stuck to his campaign bullet points.
The one possible highlight came as Palin asked Trump about his spat earlier this week with Univision reporter Jorge Ramos. Framing it as a chance for Trump to explain how the mainstream media had mistreated him over the incident, Trump surprised by insisting that by and large, the press had been in his corner. At the same time, he also poured cold water on people hoping the Ramos/Trump beef would escalate.
“Actually the press has been good to me about that. He was totally out of line, he’s screaming and ranting and raving,” Trump said. Trump then implied the whole thing was a stunt related to his ongoing lawsuit against Univision, before switching gears to suggest Ramos’ daughter being a Clinton staffer might have factored. But ultimately, he dismissed Ramos. “He was trying to put on a show.”
All in all, an underwhelming conversation. But it did the job – we all know what One America News Network is now.