5 Reasons Why Donald Trump Is Dead Wrong Boasting About Record Debate Ratings

Cable news channels didn’t even exist for decades of televised presidential debates

Donald Trump
Win McNamee / Getty Images

Donald Trump likes to talk a big game about the TV ratings he brings in, but the president was flat-out wrong about the kind of numbers his first presidential debate with Joe Biden brought in on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted: “HIGHEST CABLE TELEVISION RATINGS OF ALL TIME. SECOND HIGHEST OVERALL TELEVISION RATINGS OF ALL TIME. Some day these Fake Media Companies are going to miss me, very badly!!!” As a refresher, Tuesday’s debate raked in 73.1 million total viewers across a 16-channel simulcast from 9 p.m. ET-11 p.m. ET, representing a 16% decline from the first presidential debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton in Sept. 2016. Looking specifically at the top seven cable and broadcast networks between 9:03 p.m. ET-10:38 p.m. ET, when the debate was airing, this is how the ratings broke down: Fox News Channel (17.8 million), ABC (12.6 million), NBC (9.6 million), CNN (8.2 million), MSNBC (7.1 million), CBS (6.3 million) and Fox broadcast (5.4 million). With that in mind, here are five reasons why Trump is dead wrong: 1. These were not the “highest cable television ratings of all time,” but they were the highest cable television ratings of all time for a presidential debate. 2. The term “presidential” is key there, as Fox News had a higher-rated primary, starring Trump, back in 2015 with 23.9 million viewers. 3. It’s very important to note here that cable news channels did not exist for decades of televised presidential debates, like Jimmy Carter vs. Ronald Reagan in October 1980. Fox News would not come on the air until four years after the 1992 three-way showdown between George H.W. Bush, Ross Perot and Bill Clinton. FNC launched in 1996. 4. Trump is arguably even more wrong about Tuesday being the “second highest overall television ratings of all time.” First of all, try telling that to the Super Bowls, the “Who Shot J.R.?” resolution and many other enormous TV events. 5. As best we can tell, Trump is again only isolating presidential debates there. In 2016, his first debate against Hillary Clinton got many more eyeballs than Round 1 vs. Biden. And to even compete with Carter-Reagan, one would have to add in all of this year’s internet streaming as well. If cable was still in its infancy for Carter-Reagan, which it was, cable news was a zygote: CNN launched in June 1980. Live-streaming on the internet wasn’t even sci-fi back then. Here’s some fake news: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1311414741907116032


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