Fox News Spinning its Latest Debate Ratings–Down 11.5M From August

FNews RatingsFox News Downplaying their 48% Loss of Viewers

Vis-à-vis the August 2015 Debate

Without Trump – 12.5 Million Viewers

With Trump in August – 24 Million


Sadly, everyone at Fox News and Fox Business News is taking their sound bytes from Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes and painting a very happy face, albeit downright deceitful, on the viewership from last Thursday’s debate that was held without Donald Trump. 

The SPIN, the January 29th, 2016, GOP Presidential Debate was the 2nd highest viewership event on Fox News ever. (12.5M)  What they did not add was that the #1 viewership event was the August 2016 debate with Trump on stage.  This factoid is true but masks the fact that it is a huge decline from their August, 2016 debate viewership (24M). 

The reality is that, with Trump on stage, the viewership should have been between 18-20M viewers.  We are only days away from the start of the primary voting in Iowa and New Hampshire and interest is very high nationally as to the stances of all of the candidates.  The sad fact is that the CNBC debate (14M Viewers) in late October, that was competing with the 2nd game of the World Series, had 1.5M more viewers than last Thursday’s Fox News Debate without Trump.  (BTW, KC won 7-1)

And this is from Two NEWS Organizations who Claim to be FAIR AND BALANCED. 

To make this even worse, veteran media types like Lou Dobbs are in lockstep claiming Thursday was a huge night for Fox News and that by extension Trump was the loser.  Trump may or may not lose the Iowa Caucus but he is not a winner or loser based on Fox News viewership.  That is up for the Iowa voters to decide, not a media outlet.

This is sad and very disappointing to a viewer who has been with Fox News since 1996 when it started late that fall.  Ironically, most of the Fox News and FBN pundits are opining that Hillary Clinton should just come clean and tell the truth about her emails.  I don’t think that Fox can take that high road any longer for a host of reasons.

Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes have a beef with Donald Trump over his treatment on a prior debate by Megyn Kelly; Kelly’s comments and featuring of the National Review’s “anybody but Trump campaign” a week before the debates; Trump’s stance versus theirs on immigration versus open borders, and, the Fox News bias in favor of Marco Rubio.  Murdoch and Ailes need to stop airing their differences in public, tell their “news” staff to report fair and balanced, and get themselves out of the news cycle.  Trump is a candidate for the President of the United States.  This is beyond a petty competition between Fox and Trump.  You owe it to the viewers who have made Fox News #1.

The Facts about the Debate Ratings

Below are the Ratings for the GOP Presidential Debates Held so far this election cycle.

Date  Rank  Chan  Viewers  Note
8/6/2015        1 FN         24.0  W/Trump
9/16/2015        2 CNN         23.0  
10/3/2015        3 CNN         15.8  
10/28/2015        4 CNBC         14.0 World Series
11/10/2015        5 FBN         13.5  W/Trump
1/14/2016        7 FBN         11.0  W/Trump
1/29/2016        6 FN         12.5 No Trump

FN=Fox News, FBN=Fox Business News, CNN=CNN, CNBC=CNBC;  FBN has somewhat limited inclusion by cable providers.


  • Fox News set the record for Presidential debates in August, 2015, with 24M viewers.
  • Fox News Megyn Kelly hosted a post-debate show after the August, 2015,  Debates and drew 11.1 Viewers.  Only 1.4M less than Thursday’s debate without Trump!
  • CNBC’s debate was across from the World Series and still drew 14M Viewers.
  • FBN, with somewhat limited cable coverage, scored 13.5M Viewers in mid-October, 2015, then 11M Viewers in January of 2016. (On average equaled Thursday Fox News numbers)
  • FBN’s January 2016 debate with 11M viewers, is the lowest rated debate this season so far.
  • Fox News last Debate, January 29, 2016, without Trump, is the SECOND LOWEST RATED DEBATE THIS SEASON SO FAR.
  • Fox News is the home for the majority of Republicans and conservative voters and is also the leading cable news channel.
  • The 6 debates prior to the No Trump debate averaged 16.9M Viewers.  This should be the low bar for the last Fox News Debate as the #1 cable news network.
  • The last Debate by Fox News without Trump had 12.5M viewers whereas its sister network FBN, who has more limited cable coverage, came in at 11M.  There is no way the last Fox News debate should be this close to the FBN numbers nor equal to the average of the two FBN debates.

Trump’s absence definitely had an impact on the Fox News Viewership for the January 28th, 2016 GOP Presidential Debate.  Fox Should Just Admit This.

As a long time viewer, I hope that Murdoch and Ailes sit down with Trump and work this out in PRIVATE.  Then, tell each and everyone one of their news staff and commentators that they need to keep FAIR AND BALANCED in for forefront and to keep their petty personal opinions out of the GOP Presidential Race.  Murdoch and Ailes need to start disclosing their personal biases and conflicts of interest of their staff so their viewers can make informed decisions on whether the “news” is news or opinion.  (i.e., Murdoch and Ailes support for Open Boarders; Bill Sammon’s daughter on Rubio’s staff; Luntz prior relationship with Rubio)

To be honest, it is hard to tune back in and listen to people who you have respected spinning the company line and either directly or via their facial expressions or attitudes, treating  presidential candidates differently than they did prior to the last debate.  I don’t care who the candidate is.  They did not do this with Rand Paul to the same extent although it was noticeable. 

 RD Pierini
Twitter:  @RDPierini




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