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President Obama sit-down lifts Jay Leno to highest ratings in four years

March 20, 2009 | 10:22 am

President Obama's appearance on NBC's "Tonight Show" on Thursday lifted the program to its highest ratings in more than four years.

"Tonight" drew a 11.2 rating/26 share among households in the 56 largest TV markets measured by Nielsen Media Research. That was the highest figure since the Jan. 24, 2005, show that paid tribute to Johnny Carson. This season, "Tonight" had been averaging a 3.9 household rating.

Obama — who discussed various topics, including the furor over the AIG bonuses and whether the White House would get a basketball court — was the first sitting president ever to appear on a late-night talk show. In recent years, candidates have frequently made the rounds of the programs during campaigns; Bill Clinton famously played saxophone on Arsenio Hall's show in June 1992.

Complete ratings for the show, including total viewer figures, will not be available until Thursday.

— Scott Collins