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Donald Trump’s town hall on CNN Wednesday night came in for harsh criticism on social media, and it also drew a much larger than usual audience to the news channel.
Final same-day ratings for the telecast, with the former president being questioned by CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins, have the town hall averaging 3.31 million on-air viewers, with another 100,000 streaming the event for a cross-platform total of 3.41 million.
The TV audience for the town hall was CNN’s largest in primetime since at least July 21, 2022, when it drew 3.18 million viewers for the final televised hearing of the Jan. 6 committee. It was about four times larger than the usual tune-in for Anderson Cooper 360 in the 8 p.m. hour. The 3.31 million viewers on Wednesday is the second largest audience for any single-candidate town hall on CNN since 2016; an April 2020 sit-down with Joe Biden drew 3.47 million viewers.
The forum was met with criticism for CNN giving Trump a big platform a day after he was found liable for sexual abuse and defamation in a civil case brought against him by writer E. Jean Carroll; the jury awarded her $5 million. (Members of the live audience, made up of Republican voters and Republican-leaning independents in New Hampshire, laughed when Trump brought up the case.) Some viewers also decried Trump repeating a number of lies about the 2020 election and other subjects, but CNN CEO Chris Licht said on a staff call Thursday morning that “I absolutely, unequivocally believe America was served very well by what we did last night.”
The town hall was easily the top show on cable news Wednesday in both total viewers and the core news demographic of adults 25-54, where the telecast averaged 703,000 viewers. Fox News averaged 1.35 million viewers and 125,000 adults 25-54 in the 8 o’clock hour, while MSNBC came in at 1.36 million and 155,000.
The town hall was not the most watched show on cable Wednesday, however: That honor went to game five of the NBA playoff series between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers, which drew 7.55 million viewers to TNT. The New York Knicks-Miami Heat playoff game earlier in the evening averaged 4.39 million viewers, also on TNT.
NBC’s Chicago Fire was the most watched show on the broadcast networks in primetime with 5.95 million viewers. CBS’ Survivor led among adults 18-49 with a 0.67 rating.
May 11, 2:15 p.m. Updated with final ratings from Wednesday.
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