Fact check: In town hall TV ratings, Joe Biden beat Donald Trump

McKenzie Sadeghi, USA TODAY
·4 mins read

The claim: 190,000 watched Trump's town hall while 20,000 watched Biden's

Thursday night, ABC hosted a town hall event with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, while NBC held a town hall event with President Donald Trump, forcing viewers to watch one candidate's event, flip back and forth or stream the other at a different time.

Shortly after the dueling town halls – and before ratings were out – claims surfaced on social media that viewership of Trump's event far surpassed Biden's.

"190,000 Watching President Trump 20,000 Watching Sleepy Joe CAN YOU SAY-LANDSLIDE 2020," reads an Instagram post from Oct. 16 that has more than 1,000 likes.

The post is accompanied by two purported screenshots of the candidates' events from YouTube with viewership numbers boxed in red. Above the photo reads the text "Landslide. Not even close."

In a similar version of the claim, one user shared two screenshots of Twitter livestreams from the town halls: one image showing that 5,381 Twitter users watched ABC and one image claiming 19,100 watched NBC.

The users behind the posts did not return USA TODAY's request for the source of the numbers they cited.

Fact check: Trump signed 2 executive orders, 3 proclamations against human trafficking

The final numbers

The final numbers from rating service Nielsen show that Biden's town hall on ABC averaged 14.1 million viewers on Thursday evening, USA TODAY reported.

The Trump town hall, which also aired on NBC's cable channels, MSNBC and CNBC, averaged 10.9 million viewers on the NBC network. On MSNBC, 1.8 million viewers tuned into Trump's town hall and 720,000 watched on CNBC, according to CNN. The combined total was 13.5 million.

Both events began at 8 p.m. EDT. Biden's town hall went on for an additional 30 minutes.

"The number of viewers for each candidate doesn’t reflect head-to-head competition as the two didn’t square off against each other in every market," The Wall Street Journal reported. Though ABC showed the event live nationwide, many viewers in the Mountain and Pacific time zones did not see the NBC town hall live.

The town halls were also livestreamed on phones, computers and other devices.

ABC said in a statement that "The Vice President and the People" was the network's most viewed prime-time telecast since the Oscars aired eight months ago, and views of the broadcast exceeded those from its town hall with Trump on Sept. 15 by triple digits.

According to Newsweek, the NBC News YouTube channel showed 153,600 viewers were watching at the end of Trump's town hall, and ABC News' YouTube channel showed 507,445 viewers at the end of Biden's event.

Biden has brought in 5.4 million views on ABC's YouTube stream and 2.4 million views on its Facebook page. Trump has brought in 3 million views on NBC's YouTube, 3.4 million views on CNBC's YouTube and about 964,000 from NBC's Facebook page.

Fact check: RNC's first night viewership not as high as posts boast

Our ruling: False

We rate this claim as FALSE, because it is not supported by our research. Final viewership numbers show that ratings for both candidates were much larger than the posts claim and Trump did not win the ratings head-to-head against Biden by a "landslide." Biden's town hall overall drew in a larger audience than Trump's. Nielsen figures show that Biden's town hall garnered 14.1 million viewers while Trump's town hall brought in 13.5 million viewers.

Our fact-check sources:

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.

Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: In town hall TV ratings, Joe Biden beat Donald Trump