The recent Fox News Republican debate defied expectations in terms of ratings, despite the absence of former President Donald Trump, a major draw for such events. While the debate featured eight candidates lagging far behind Trump in polls, it managed to attract a solid viewership of 12.8 million across both Fox News and Fox Business. Though these figures didn’t approach the record-breaking ratings of the 2015 debate, they exceeded the hopes of Fox News executives, considering the evolving media landscape and the rise of cord-cutting.
Rather than participating in the debate, Trump opted for a counter-programming strategy by engaging in a 46-minute interview with Tucker Carlson, a former Fox News host. This interview was released on X (formerly known as Twitter) just five minutes before the debate began in Milwaukee. Trump and his supporters lauded the interview’s viewership metrics, which Twitter listed as a staggering 253 million “views.”
Trump also promoted a piece from a right-wing blog claiming “Trump’s Tucker Interview The Most Watched Interview EVER, Beating Oprah & Michael Jackson.”
The Daily Mail reported: “The Fox-hosted Republican primary debate was easily bested by the person who wasn’t there, Donald Trump, as the former president’s interview with Tucker Carlson on X easily saw more eyeballs.”
However, skepticism arose about the reliability of these views as a meaningful metric. It’s noted that the Twitter “views” metric is rather superficial, counting anyone who scrolls past a tweet as a viewer. Furthermore, these counts don’t necessarily reflect actual engagement or substantial viewing time. Comparisons between Twitter “views” and traditional TV viewership metrics were deemed unfair, as they measure different aspects of engagement.
The Hollywood Reporter and other sources pointed out that the focus on Twitter “views” was misleading. THR calculated the Trump-Carlson interview’s supposed views based on the video view metric, which was inaccurate since Twitter changed its metrics. Mashable reported that about 14.8 million people watched at least 2 seconds of the Trump interview on X, a far smaller figure than the touted 253 million views.