At least 15 million TV viewers watch impeachment vote

DAVID BAUDER
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Trump Impeachment

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., holds the gavel as House members vote on the article II of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

At least 15 million television viewers watched the House of Representatives vote to impeach President Donald Trump after a full day of rancorous debate.

Both Fox News Channel and NBC had roughly 5 million viewers during the hour, starting at 8 p.m. Eastern, when the House took separate votes Wednesday on two articles of impeachment, the Nielsen company said. MSNBC had 3.2 million viewers and CNN had 2.84 million.

The preliminary Nielsen numbers don't take into account other networks, like CSPAN, where the impeachment vote was carried. There was no reliable number immediately for daytime coverage.

The ratings also seemed to justify decisions made in network executive suites about coverage of the impeachment vote. Both CBS and ABC left the debate to air entertainment coverage, while NBC stuck with the news.

At 8 p.m., CBS had 6.7 million viewers for the “Survivor” season finale, while ABC had 5.7 million for its live remakes of two classic Norman Lear sitcoms, Nielsen said. That's almost certainly more viewers than they would have attracted if they had stuck with news.

Since NBC had scheduled a repeat episode of an Ellen DeGeneres holiday giveaway show — in effect conceding the hour to its broadcast rivals — news coverage brought in more viewers than the network would otherwise have gotten.

A review of newspaper front pages across the country showed banner headlines for the impeachment story virtually everywhere. The one-word headline “Impeached” dominated the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska, the Arizona Republic, the Boston Globe and the Baltimore Sun.

The handful of newspapers that didn't lead with the story were ones that appeared to focus almost solely on local news up front. The Clarion-Ledger in Biloxi, Mississippi, for example, led with the death of a Domino's Pizza delivery person.

In Battle Creek, Michigan, where Trump spoke at a rally Thursday night, the front page headline was “Trump Comes to Battle Creek.” The impeachment story was bumped to page 8-A.

The New York Post, owned by conservative media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, featured a picture of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the headline “It's Your Funeral.” The secondary headline was “Swamp mistress Pelosi dresses in black for historic vote.”