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GOP Primary Debate Draws 12.8 Million Viewers Despite Donald Trump’s Absence on Fox News

Even without Donald Trump, the first Republican presidential primary debate drew an estimated 12.8 million viewers on Fox News and its streaming service.

There was little evidence that Trump’s attempt to counterprogram the debate by appearing in an online interview with Tucker Carlson impacted the number of people interested in watching the eight alternative candidates.

The viewership was slightly over half the number of people who watched Trump’s first presidential debate in 2015. However, it surpassed the viewership of a GOP candidates debate in 2016 that Trump also skipped.

Television has changed significantly in the past eight years, with streaming services becoming more established and many cable customers cutting the cord. Last week, the most-watched program on broadcast or cable TV was a “60 Minutes” rerun that reached 5.3 million viewers.

Although Carlson claimed that his streamed interview would attract a “far larger” audience than the televised debate, and Trump even compared it to the Super Bowl, there is no reliable way to verify these claims.

According to X, the tweet of Carlson’s interview show received 236.7 million views. However, this count includes anyone who scrolled by the post, regardless of whether they opened it or not.

Public interaction numbers were smaller, with around 55,000 comments and about 200,000 likes on the interview.

The television viewership figure is an estimate of how many people were watching the debate at any given minute. The debate was simulcast on Fox News Channel and the Fox Business Network.

Moderated by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, the two-hour debate barely mentioned Trump until halfway through when Baier briefly addressed “the elephant not in the room” – Trump and his criminal indictments.

Although there was reluctance to discuss this topic, the 10 minutes when it was discussed were some of the debate’s most captivating moments.

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