Last night's debate sent Fox News' ratings through the roof

The first GOP debate may have just given Fox News its best ratings ever

By Sophia Tesfaye

Published August 7, 2015 3:23PM (EDT)

Roger Ailes, Megyn Kelly      (Reuters/Fred Prouser/Jeff Malet,
Roger Ailes, Megyn Kelly (Reuters/Fred Prouser/Jeff Malet,

“When did you actually become a Republican?"

“Would you really let a mother die rather than have an abortion?”

Those were just some of the pointed questions co-moderator Megyn Kelly asked the 10 GOP presidential hopefuls gathered for the Republican rumble at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio last night.

Fox News hosts Chris Wallace and Bret Baier also helped helm the special TV event starring former reality-TV star Donald Trump at centerstage starring in the role of Republican frontrunner but Kelly really ran the show. And boy, what a show it turned out to be. The much hyped first debate of the 2016 cycle offered plenty of made-for-TV moments, turning at times, into an inadvertent comedy and it looks like America tuned in for the show.

According to CNN media reporter, Brian Stelter, the overnight Neilsen ratings were through the roof: "the preliminary ratings, known as 'metered market overnights,' indicate that upward of 10 million viewers tuned to Fox for the prime time debate":

Early overnight Nielsen ratings suggest that Thursday's Republican debate was not just the most-watched primary debate in history -- it may have been twice as big as the previous record-holder. The debate on Fox News had a 16.0 household rating between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., according to Nielsen.

Translation: 16% of United States homes with TV sets tuned in. Fox News usually has 1% or 2% of the household audience. For the sake of comparison, the highest-rated Republican primary debates in 2011 and 2012 were watched by approximately 5% of households. The Democratic primary debates in 2008 were bigger, but none of those ever topped 10%.

The final viewership ratings will come out later today but Fox boss, Roger Ailes, is a happy customer. Ailes got his ratings and got a chance to give his Golden Girl, Megyn Kelly, a chance to shine on her biggest platform yet. ”I’m extremely proud of all of the moderators—they asked tough, important questions and did their job as journalists,” Ailes told Politico after the debate. "I’m extremely proud of all of the moderators—they asked tough, important questions and did their job as journalists."

Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

MORE FROM Sophia TesfayeFOLLOW @SophiaTesfaye