Turn Off: Mueller Hearings Flop in National Viewership

Former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Intelligence Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Wednesday’s hearings featuring former Special Counsel Robert Mueller failed to captivate national audiences, with viewership tanking compared to similar past political events on Capitol Hill.

Mueller’s testimony before both the House Judiciary Committee and House Intelligence Committee garnered just 13 million American viewers on major networks like Fox News, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, NBC, and MSNBC, according to data from Nielsen. Viewership came in millions lower than other high-profile, highly anticipated events on Capitol Hill.

Former FBI director James Comey’s June 2017 hearing attracted 19.5 million viewers, and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s contentious September 2018 testimony garnered 20 million viewers. Mueller’s hearing even fell below former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s February testimony, which attracted 16 million viewers.

Fox News saw the most viewers, with a 3 million average, followed by MSNBC with 2.41 million; ABC with 2.12 million; NBC with 1.99 million; and CBS with 1.91 million. CNN came in dead last with half of Fox News’s viewership– 1.52 million viewers. However, as the New York Times notes, Neilsen only measures TV viewers, leaving out those who streamed the hearings on other platforms.

The Washington Post reported Fox News and Breitbart News led the coverage on social media on the day of Mueller’s appearances.

As Breitbart News reported:

According to Drew Harwell, a reporter covering artificial intelligence and algorithms for the Washington Post, Fox News, Breitbart News, and the personal page of President Trump dominated the mainstream media throughout the news cycle during former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress. Harwell posted his findings in a number of tweets which showed the rankings of social media engagement during the hearing.

Mueller’s appearances were largely seen as a failure for Democrats, who hoped his testimonies would bolster their impeachment efforts. Many on the left were taken aback by Mueller’s lackluster performance, with left-wing filmmaker and notorious anti-Trumper Michael Moore calling Mueller “a frail old man” who was “unable to remember things, stumbling, [and] refusing to answer basic questions.”:

Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) caught Mueller contradicting himself during the testimony after the former Special Counsel said he did “not address collusion” in his investigation. Collins asked Mueller if “collusion” and “conspiracy” were synonymous, and Mueller said they were not. Collins proceeded to read Mueller’s own report:

On page 180 of volume one of your report, you wrote, ‘As defined in legal dictionaries, collusion is largely synonymous with conspiracy as that crime is set forth in the general federal conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. 371; … Are you sitting here today testifying something different than what your report states?

Mueller stumbled and eventually conceded.

“I leave it with the report,” Mueller said.

“The report says yes,” Collins replied. “They are synonymous. Hopefully – finally – out of your own report we can put to bed the collusion and conspiracy.”

Mueller was also grilled for stacking his staffers with Hillary Clinton allies, and he refused to say if he read the Steele dossier, which as Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) pointed out, “formed part of the basis to justify the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.”

Mueller even claimed to be unfamiliar with Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm at the heart of the dossier, funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).


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