After adjusting for the different audience measurements between cable television and social media, it appears Tucker Carlson’s interview with former president Donald Trump far outperformed Fox News when it came to drawing eyeballs for the GOP presidential debate.
Mashable, which analyzed the nearly 200 million “impressions” on Carlson’s post, concluded that 19 million viewers watched his 45-minute interview with the former president. That figure far outpaces viewership of Fox’s debate, which drew 12.8 million viewers.
The conservative cable network’s figures match those of its 2016 GOP debate which then-candidate Trump similarly chose to skip. By the time he joined the field on stage, an astonishing 24 million viewers tuned in, essentially doubling the audience size and certifying Trump as ratings gold.
Without Trump to kick around, eight other GOP candidates fought tooth and nail for airtime in a debate that was pockmarked by insults, outbursts, and made-for-TV zingers so prevalent in modern presidential campaigns. Participants included Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson as well as North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum who overcame a leg injury to join the lineup.
Highlights of the debate included a back-and-forth between Christie and Ramaswamy, who has taken second place in the field amid his unflinching loyalty to President Trump while being unafraid to challenge the rest of the field to follow his lead on matters like promising to pardon Trump if elected. DeSantis took a hesitant approach, glancing around stage before raising his hand to pledge he would pardon Trump. Vice President Pence consistently interrupted others throughout the debate while Haley struck a moderate tone and Hutchinson and Burgum largely stuck to high-brow, unremarkable lines.
By comparison, President Trump’s interview with Carlson was noted for its pure entertainment value as he mocked President Joe Biden for “walking on toothpicks,” declaring “Fox is dead” and calling its host Chris Wallace a “b*tchy little man.” He felt no need to participate in the debate given he leads the field by chasmic margins and posts a clear lead over President Biden in head-to-head matchups.