About 20 million people tuned into the Jan. 6 committee’s first prime-time hearing last week across 12 networks and on internet-connected TVs, according to data from Nielsen.
That’s a bigger audience than the typical ratings for Monday Night Football (which average 13.5 million viewers per game in 2021), the first hearing of former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment (14 million) and Sunday’s Tony Awards (3.9 million on just CBS).
Conservative news media outlets including Fox News and Washington Free Beacon inaccurately claimed more people watched a rerun of “Young Sheldon” that the prime-time hearing. There was no rerun of “Young Sheldon” last Thursday because it was preempted by the Jan. 6 hearing, and the “Young Sheldon” finale in May had an audience of just 6.73 million.
The Jan. 6 hearing did reach fewer people, however, than the audience for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address in March (38 million) and it was about on par with those who watched then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testify (20 million) in 2018.
There are not yet ratings for the House Jan. 6 committee’s Monday morning hearing.
While much of the political world has been glued to their screens, not everyone was watching. Biden said last week that he didn’t watch the prime-time Thursday hearing. While Biden called the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol “one of the darkest chapters in our nation’s history” and a “brutal attack on law enforcement,” the White House is purposely limiting comments about the hearing to avoid further politicizing it, according to Politico.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, is also avoiding the hearings. When asked Tuesday if he should have spoken out more forcefully against Trump, McConnell said, “I’m focusing on what we’re doing here in the Senate,” and ended a press conference.
A CBS News poll released ahead of the committee’s hearings found 70% of Americans believe its important to find out what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, and 68% believe the events were a sign of increasing political violence, compared with 32% who believe it was an isolated incident.
The committee postponed a hearing scheduled for Wednesday and will hold its next hearing Thursday.