Someone is not happy about all the media attention being given to Senator Bernie Sanders’ town hall on Fox News Channel Monday. The event received yuuuge ratings and Fox’s number one viewer is feeling slighted.
Tuesday night President Trump tweeted out his concern about the conservative-leaning cable network. He questioned why the audience was packed with Berniebros instead of his own supporters, because, Fox. Trump referenced “big complaints” from “many Trump fans” who were left outside.
Here’s the thing. This hour-long town hall with Senator Sanders included two Fox anchors as moderators, Bret Baier, and Martha MacCallum plus a live audience. The whole purpose of the hour was to give Sanders a platform to make his case to the Fox viewing audience, the largest audience in cable television. The moderators asked questions and also took questions from the audience. It would have been counter-productive to bring in a large number of Trump supporters. It wasn’t a debate. Sanders received pushback from both Baier and MacCallum for his answers when it was warranted. He wasn’t allowed to just spew forth with his political agenda unchallenged. Yes, the audience was quite loud in their support of Sanders but not the entire audience. Trump supporters were in attendance as well as independent voters.
From my own personal experience with these televised town halls during a presidential primary season, I can tell you that tickets are offered online after the organizers reach out to local groups who may have members interested in attending. One requirement in the process is that the potential ticketholder submits a question to be asked during the town hall. At least that is how Fox News Channel did it in 2016 during the Republican primary and the town halls with Megyn Kelly. There was an overflow of people who weren’t accommodated with admission but that wasn’t the fault of Fox. The venues, typically, aren’t particularly large ones. It’s not like these town halls for Fox are done in stadiums.
Fox scored a record number of viewers for this event. The ratings “trounced” those of CNN and MSNBC and broke Kamala Harris’ record. Uh-oh.
According to early Nielsen data, more than 2.5 million viewers tuned in to hear Sanders, a self-described “democratic socialist,” make his case on Fox News during the 6:30 pm hour, prior to primetime. That total viewership bested CNN’s Bernie Sanders town hall event from back in February, and it doubled MSNBC’s during the same time period on Monday evening, and nearly tripled CNN’s.
The prior town hall rating record for the 2020 cycle was a CNN-hosted event with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), which drew 1.95 million total viewers.
Additionally, per Nielsen, Fox’s Sanders event brought in 489,000 viewers between the ages of 25 and 54—a key demographic for cable-news advertisers—trouncing CNN’s 281,000 tally and MSNBC’s 208,000.
Frankly, this didn’t surprise me. As I mentioned above, Fox News Channel is the most watched cable network. Despite what liberal politicians and ideologues may claim, not everyone tuning into the network is conservative or a Republican voter. In my opinion, it was a huge mistake for the DNC to ban Fox during the selection process for the party’s upcoming primary debates. Why leave potential voters behind when plenty of Independents and voters disenchanted with Trump are up for grabs? Granted, Trump is still hugely popular with Republicans and that isn’t likely to change. The point is that such myopic behavior does no favors to the candidates. Any of them.
Most Democrat politicians avoid appearing on Fox. That’s to their detriment. I can tune into other cable networks all day long and see Republican politicians talking to those audiences. Fox makes a specific effort to bring balanced panels of commentators while the others don’t. Therefore, Fox succeeds in garnering viewers. Regular people don’t want to just hear one opinion expressed by all a show’s guests.
So, with such a successful town hall now in the record books, guess what’s happening? Other Democrats are looking into having a town hall on Fox. They are beginning to see the error in ignoring so many potential voters. It’s just common sense, isn’t it? Mayor Pete is in talks now with the network, though allegedly his campaign was even before Sanders’ event. Amy Klobuchar will do a town hall on May 8 on Fox in Milwaukee. Eric Swalwell is now interested in talking about a town hall on Fox, too. In fairness, he is one of the few Democrats who does come on Fox rather regularly.
President Trump is a savvy man when it comes to television ratings and delivering what an audience wants. He said during the 2016 campaign that he wanted to reach out to all voters, specifically Bernie voters after Hillary was chosen at the Democrat convention as their candidate. Now the challenge for Trump is to share the Fox audience. He’ll be fine. His supporters aren’t going anywhere.