An average of 2.6 million people watched Fox News Channel’s first Democratic town hall of this presidential election cycle in which Bret Baier put questions to former Secretary of State/Dem frontrunner Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. That includes 473K in the news demo in the town hall’s early 6 PM timeslot. FNC’s town hall clocked more viewers than CNN (877K) and MSNBC (555K) combined in the hour
FNC reran the Dem town hall at 11 PM and clocked another 1.1M viewers and 370K in the demo, for a cumed total of 3.7M and 873K viewers aged 25-54.
In January, CNN’s Dem town hall became the most watched in cable news history, logging 3.2 million viewers, also on a Monday night, and 944K news demo viewers. That town hall ran 9-11 p.m. ET, when HUT levels are higher than at 6 PM ET, which is when FNC’s Q&A aired live.
More comparison: in February, the first night of CNN’s two-night GOP town hall, featuring candidates Ben Carson, and Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz averaged 2.3M viewers and 758K news demo viewers. The next night, CNN’s town hall clocked 2.9M primetime viewers last night and 780K news demo viewers, featuring John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Donald Trump.
Sanders signed on early for the FNC appearance, seen as a chance to reach more disaffected voters who might not watch competing news networks on which Sanders has appeared more regularly. Originally, Sanders was to have debated GOP frontrunner Donald Trump during last night’s telecast, the New York Times reported; Trump bowed out before a deal was sealed, and Sanders’ appearance morphed into a town hall. Clinton’s campaign initially claimed a schedule conflict, but changed course a few days after the town hall was announced and accepted the invitation.
FNC has, to date, been unable to convince the Democratic National Committee to let it host a Dem debate; last night’s town hall was a work-around. Town hall’s have become a thing in this White House race because they do not require party sanction.
Though Clinton’s emails are a frequent subject of conversation on the network, the town hall marked her first appearance on FNC since her book tour in 2014. Unless, that is, you count her hours-long appearance on FNC – and CNN, and MSNBC – back in October when she was grilled for 11 hours at the Benghazi hearing. Interestingly, FNC scored the biggest rating among cable news networks with that Clinton “appearance,” though posting a slightly smaller 2.2M viewers between 10 AM and 5 PM ET. That’s when FNC became the first of the cable news nets to pull away from the hearing.
Last night’s debate also was being discussed as a sort of olive-branch-cum-audition-reel, in which FNC demonstrated to the DNC it was not in the tank for the GOP and could host a Q&A with especially Clinton, without pitchforks and fire. FNC’s moderators, including Baier, recently got high marks from TV critics and political pundits for their efforts to elevate the tone of the network’s most recent GOP debate, on March 3, during which party front-runner Donald Trump boasted about the size of his male pride. That debate clocked 17M viewers. Last night’s Dem town hall discussion was on a decidedly higher plane. Here are some highlights:
Baier also asked Clinton, “Do you think a child should have any legal rights or protections before it’s born? Or do you think there should not be any restrictions on any abortions at any stage in a pregnancy?”
“Right now the Supreme Court is considering a decision that would shut down a lot of the options for women in Texas, and there have been other legislatures that have taken similar steps to try to restrict a woman’s right to obtain an abortion,” Clinton began. “Under Roe v. Wade, which is rooted in the Constitution, women have this right to make this highly personal decision with their family in accordance with their faith, with their doctor. It’s not much of a right if it is totally limited and constrained. So I think we have to continue to stand up for a woman’s right to make these decisions, and to defend Planned Parenthood, which does an enormous amount of good work across our country.”
Sanders, who was Clinton’s opening act at last night’s town hall, got asked a question on same subject:
Other questions to Sanders included: