If it seemed like everyone watched Thursday night’s GOP primary debate on Fox News, that’s because they pretty much did. According to Nielsen data, an estimated 24 million people tuned in to Fox News for the first debate between potential Republican candidates for President of the United States, the largest audience in the history of the news network and one of the biggest ever on cable.
To put that number in perspective, an estimated 3.5 million people watched Jon Stewart’s final episode of The Daily Show.
Online, the debate was huge as well. Nielsen Social data shows that 9.3 million people in the U.S. saw one or more of 3.3 million tweets sent about the “Republican Presidential Candidates Debate.”
The GOP primary debate became a must-see event this year thanks to the inclusion of Donald Trump. The billionaire and former host of The Apprentice has become a lightning rod for controversy since announcing his candidacy for president, and continued to provide headlines on Thursday. When Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked Trump about calling women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals” on his Twitter account, Trump replied, “Only Rosie O’Donnell.” Trump was criticized for the remark, and was described as “out of place” on the debate stage by Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer. On Twitter, Trump hit back at his detractors and Krauthammer.