Fox News' Debate Ratings Without Donald Trump Reveal That Fox Didn't Lose — But Neither Did A Certain Someone
In an act of defiance against Fox News and news anchor Megyn Kelly, Donald Trump boycotted the network's second GOP debate Thursday night, opting to host his own event instead. Trump claimed that Fox News would lose out on the high ratings he's continuously drawn to the 2016 primary debates, tweeting Thursday morning: "The 'debate' tonight will be a total disaster — low ratings with advertisers and advertising rates dropping like a rock." Because Trump was so vocal about his absence hurting the network, you may be wondering if Trump's debate boycott actually hurt Fox News' ratings. The answer is yes, and no.
The seventh GOP debate had the second lowest rating of the election, according to CNN Money. Fox News had between 11 and 13 million viewers Thursday night, compared to 24 million during its first debate in August. Debate ratings have fallen across the board since the earliest forums, but Thursday's was especially low, and Trump will no doubt take credit for the decrease. Of course, it's impossible to determine how many more Americans would have tuned in if Trump were present at the debate — did voters really not watch because he wasn't there or are people just getting debate fatigue? Update: Fox News' debate saw 12.5 viewers Thursday night, according to early Nielsen research.
Despite Fox News' ratings, Trump's alternative event (a fundraiser for veterans) didn't garner a ton of viewers either. The networks that covered Trump's rally — CNN and MSNBC — reached only about a quarter of Fox News' audience numbers combined, according to CNN Money. Trump's debate boycott may have somewhat hurt Fox News' ratings, but he didn't draw the people not watching to his arena. So, it seems like America just wasn't interested in political coverage Thursday night.
While throwing an anti-debate party, Trump was still the most talked about candidate during the GOP forum in Des Moines. According to Twitter's data, he accounted for 36 percent of all debate-related conversations on the social media, while Ted Cruz took 16 percent and Marco Rubio 13 percent. It was also impossible for the moderators and debaters to completely ignore Trump's existence, and Kelly kicked off the show by confronting the "elephant not in the room."
The GOP front-runner announced that he raised $6 million for veterans ($1 million of which he donated himself), and his campaign released a list of 22 organizations that his foundation will share the money with. Most of the money was donated by Trump's wealthy friends, including investor Carl Icahn, real estate developer Phil Ruffin, and Marvel Comics CEO Ike Perlmutter, and $500,000 was brought in through his website DonaldTrumpForVets.com.
The Iowa caucuses on Monday will likely be a good indication of whether or not sitting out the debate hurt or helped Trump's campaign.