Just an hour before his Twitter tirade against Megyn Kelly prompted the ire of Fox News Channel brass and talent, Donald Trump appeared on the cable news network’s highest-rated show: The O’Reilly Factor.
It should go without saying that host Bill O’Reilly again had the top cable-news show on Monday night. Plugging the satellite interview with the GOP candidate early in the day, the episode averaged 3.35 million viewers and 631,000 adults 25-54 — up a tick by both measures from last week’s comparable outing.
And while Trump has been blessing multiple news outlets with ratings boosts, his Kelly comments finally may have crossed the line at FNC. “Megyn Kelly represents the very best of American journalism, and all of us at Fox News Channel reject the crude and irresponsible attempts to suggest otherwise,” said Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes in a Tuesday statement, in which he called on Trump to apologize.
This is not the first “Trump bump” FNC, or other channels, have seen. His record-breaking appearance during the Aug. 6 GOP debate followed a string of strong appearances on the Sunday-morning shows and in primetime. (“I’m a ratings machine!” he declared during his cover-story interview with The Hollywood Reporter.)
But it should be noted that FNC is doing just fine without Trump. His top-of-the-hour appearance on Monday’s O’Reilly wasn’t even its highest-rated 15-minute window. And mounting coverage of the presidential race and other news had the network finish its third week as the most-watched primetime in all of cable last week — besting even AMC, which was boosted by Sunday’s record-breaking Fear the Walking Dead premiere.
The Kelly File, to which Trump told THR a visit from him is “unlikely,” doesn’t appear to need the candidate in the hot seat to be a strong draw. On her first night back from vacation, Kelly posted her biggest audience of 2015. The Monday telecast was a close No. 2 to O’Reilly, with 3.1 million viewers and 603,000 adults 25-54 — within spitting distance of O’Reilly by both measures.