WASHINGTON — In the ratings battle between the dueling presidential town halls, former vice president Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump, according to Nielsen numbers released Friday.
Coming just two and a half weeks before the election, Trump on Thursday night participated in a televised town hall on NBC at the same time Biden had one on ABC.
Biden's event drew 14.1 million viewers, and Trump's attracted 13.5 million in the same hour, Nielsen ratings released Friday afternoon said.
Nielsen’s preliminary estimates Friday morning showed that 12.2 million people watched Biden on ABC, while 10.4 million watched Trump on NBC stations.
The president's program also aired across MSNBC and CNBC. The numbers released Friday morning didn't include cable viewers who watched Trump's event as it aired simultaneously on the two other channels.
It had been expected that Trump would get more viewers because it was simulcast. But the mostly liberal audience that usually tunes in to MSNBC wasn't enthusiastic about watching.
NBC had received sharp criticism for scheduling its event at the same time as Biden. It was supposed to have been the night of the second debate, but the independent commission canceled it after Trump balked at doing a virtual debate.
Trump and Biden were supposed to spend Thursday night on the same debate stage in Miami. But that faceoff was scuttled after Trump’s coronavirus infection, which jolted the race and threatened the health of the American president.
Trump wouldn’t say whether he had tested negative on the day of his first debate with Biden on Sept. 29, allowing only, “Possibly I did, possibly I didn’t.” Debate rules required that each candidate, using the honor system, had tested negative prior to the Cleveland event, but Trump spoke in circles when asked when he last tested negative.
The town halls offered a different format for the two candidates to present themselves to voters, after the pair held a chaotic and combative first debate late last month. The difference in the men’s tone was immediate and striking.
The Associated Press contributed.