Trump-Biden dumpster fire debate drops in ratings from 2016
Tuesday night's first debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden fell in the ratings compared to the first face-off between Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016.
According to Nielsen, 73.1 million people watched the debate across 16 networks and streaming platforms. That's a 13 percent drop from the record total of 84 million for the first Trump-Clinton debate.
The instantly notorious 90-minute bout played out on stage in Cleveland and on social media like something akin to a collective nervous breakdown rather than a reasonable discussion. Nielsen ratings are an average of how many people watched an entire program, so the lower number could have, in theory, been impacted by a certain percentage of viewers switching off early to escape the near-constant cross-talk cacophony that was largely driven by Trump's interruptions, insults, and refusal to follow the debate's agreed-upon structure.
Among the networks, Fox News led with 17.1 million viewers, followed by ABC with 12.1 million, then NBC with 9 million, CNN with 7.9 million, MSNBC with 7 million, CBS with 6.1 million, and Fox with 5.2 million.
Next up, there's a vice presidential debate scheduled between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris on Oct. 7. Then Biden and Trump are supposed to face off a second time on Oct. 15 (though some have wondered if another debate is even going to happen at this point). For true political masochists, there's even a third debate slated for Oct. 22.
The Commission on Presidential Debates released a statement Tuesday saying it will provide moderators of the remaining debates with "additional tools to maintain order" — a rather vague phrase that likely means the ability to mute the mics of the debaters if they speak when it's not their turn.