The nearly seven hours of testimony by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III was watched by 13 million viewers on Wednesday, falling short of the audience levels for recent high-profile Washington hearings.
The total was below the 20.4 million viewers who watched the Sept. 27 Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for then-Supreme Court justice nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh and the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused him of sexual assault. He denied the allegation.
Former FBI director James Comey’s June 8, 2017, testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee was watched by 19.5 million viewers, according to data from Nielsen.
While highly anticipated, Mueller’s appearance failed to provide much drama or surprises as he frequently referred to the text of his two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to answer questions presented to him by members of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee.
Fox News Channel had the largest audience for the coverage that ran from 8:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Eastern, with 3.03 million viewers; MSNBC was second with 2.4 million viewers, followed by ABC (2.1 million), NBC (2 million), CBS (1.9 million) and CNN (1.5 million).
CBS, which typically has the most viewers during daytime hours, is off the air in 6.6 million homes that receive it through AT&T services DirecTV and U-Verse. The network’s stations have been blacked out in those homes since July 20 in a dispute over carriage fees.
Post-testimony analysis drove Fox News to higher-than-usual audience levels for its prime time commentators. The network averaged 4.3 million viewers topping MSNBC (2.34 million) and CNN (1.24 million). “Hannity” was the most-watched cable news program on the night, with 4.8 million viewers, the third-largest audience for the program in 2019.
The strong showing for Fox News is an indication President Trump’s supporters believed the hearings benefited the White House. Conservative-leaning Fox News, which is routinely the most watched cable news channel in prime time, will see its ratings soften on nights when news for the president isn’t good.
Mueller’s terse testimony never directly accused Trump of a crime and did not offer any condemnation of his behavior beyond confirming details in his 448-page written report issued April 18.
Viewers tend to flock to the progressive commentators on MSNBC when Trump is in trouble. But the network did not see any audience lift Wednesday.