While Donald Trump’s Fox News town hall sit-down with confidant Sean Hannity was the most-watched cable news program on Wednesday, it still pulled in more than 1.5 million fewer viewers than the made-for-TV debate featuring GOP presidential primary rival Ron DeSantis.
According to Nielsen, the pre-taped event from Iowa—which included Trump suggesting he’d be a dictator on “day one” if he returned to the White House—drew an average of 3.164 million total viewers. It also attracted an audience of 375,000 in the key advertising demographic of adults aged 25-54.
The broadcast easily beat its cable news competition at 9 p.m. ET, more than doubling up MSNBC’s Alex Wagner Tonight in total viewers and besting CNN’s The Source with Kaitlan Collins by over 2.5 million viewers overall. It was also the top-drawing program across all of cable news in total viewership and the key demo.
The quadruply indicted ex-president’s third town hall with Hannity since June, Wednesday evening’s forum ended up beating the previous two events in the ratings. June’s town hall averaged 2.78 million total viewers while July’s offering was watched by an audience of 2.85 million. At the same time, none of these events have matched the viewership of his chaotic New Hampshire town hall with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, which scored 3.3 million viewers overall—and a cascade of headaches for the network.
Yet, despite ruling the cable news night on Wednesday, the ratings-obsessed Trump will have to deal with the fact that the Hannity-moderated debate between DeSantis and California Gov. Gavin Newsom absolutely trounced him.
The buzzy event, which was heavily promoted by the network and aired last Thursday night, brought in a robust 4.75 million total viewers. Billed as a Red State vs. Blue State showdown, the 90-minute debate drew 742,000 in the 25-54 demographic and was Hannity’s highest-rated broadcast this year.
In fact, the post-debate coverage by Hannity also outdrew Wednesday night’s town hall, nabbing 3.41 million viewers overall and 524,000 in the key demo. The DeSantis vs. Newsom fracas also helped Fox News attract twice as many primetime viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined, averaging an audience of 3.87 million compared to MSNBC’s 1.34 million and CNN’s 513,000 on Thursday evening.
Meanwhile, Rachel Maddow’s Monday night interview with top Trump critic Liz Cheney nearly beat the ex-president, which would have almost certainly been devastating for him. Discussing her new book Oath and Honor, which warns about the “scary” consequences of a second Trump administration, Cheney’s hour-long primetime conversation with the MSNBC star averaged 3.149 million viewers overall and a demo audience of 249,000.
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