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Fox News viewers win cable-ratings argument, as Obama and Boehner talk debt ceiling

July 27, 2011 |  7:40 am


In a news conference on July 11 -- which in debt-ceiling-debate time seems to be a hundred years ago --  President Obama answered a reporter's question on public skepticism about the value of raising the national debt c eiling by saying, "The public is not paying close attention to the ins and outs of how a Treasury option goes."

Whether or not Americans were paying attention then, they sure are now, especially if they watch Fox News Channel.

Among those tuning into cable news to see the president's latest speech on the debt ceiling at 6 p.m. PT on Monday, FNC viewers outnumbered those watching competitors CNN and MSNBC by a comfortable margin.

Over 3.5 million watched the president's address on FNC, with a slight uptick to 4 million for....

...the GOP response from Speaker of the House John Boehner (with over 1.2 million in the coveted Adults 25-54 demographic). CNN came in second, with just over two million viewers for both the speech and the response. MSNBC brought up the rear with nearly 1.6 million for the speech and slightly less for Boehner's comments.

While CNN's ordinarily anemic primetime ratings normally spike during speeches, conventions and other political events, it may have lost some viewers because the speech came smack in the middle of network primetime, instead of at the start of it, at 8 p.m.

Many potential CNN viewers -- often folks who are interested in events but not necessarily political junkies -- may have already been watching network programming and just stayed where they were.

The more involved audiences of FNC and MSNBC probably tuned to their favorite cable newser planning to stick around to hear analysis from anchors and commentators.

FNC viewers were treated to a particularly tart response to Obama's remarks from contributor Charles Krauthammer, who said, "I thought I was cynical until I heard that speech."

MSNBC's Chris Matthews pointed out the president didn't "make news," as presidents usually do when they ask for a primetime TV slot, and said, "the President should not have gone on national television to give a political address."

CNN senior political analyst David Gergen labeled both addresses as "partisan."

And, finally, taking off his comedian hat for a moment and putting on his political pundit hat, Comedy Central's Jon Stewart, under the title of "Armadebtdon 2011: The End of the World as We Owe It," commented on the Commander in Chief's request for Americans to call their congressional representatives by asking, "Did the president just quit?"

As far we we can tell -- no.

But White House press secretary Jay Carney may have briefly reconsidered his career options when he faced off in the briefing room with reporter Ed Henry, who made a bit of noise in his first such affair after leaving CNN to become FNC's new White House correspondent.

Henry wondered what the point was of Obama's primetime address if the president didn't have a specific plan of his own, to have Carney accuse him of repeating "point number one on the talking points issued by the Republican Party."

Henry pressed on. So, Carney referred to President Obama's April 13 George Washington University speech then said some journalists may have "cut out early" on Friday night and not heard the president's remarks that evening from the briefing room. That caused many of the assembled journos to groan loudly.

And it went on for quite a while after that.

Watch for yourself ...


Obama says debt deal must include revenues

Obama scolds GOP as debt talks break down, 'Where's the leadership?"

Obama on the budget stalemate: 'In the past, raising the debt ceiling was routine'

-- Kate O'Hare

Media critic Kate O’Hare is a regular Ticket contributor. She also blogs about TV at Hot Cuppa TV and is a frequent contributor at entertainment-news site Zap2it. Also follow O'Hare on Twitter @KateOH

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Photo, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, President Obama, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell. Credit: Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images