19.5 million viewers tuned in to watch Comey testify

Former FBI director James Comey's dramatic testimony before Congress last Thursday brought big audiences to US broadcast and cable networks, drawing about 19.5 million viewers, according to data from the Nielsen ratings agency. That is a large audien
PHOTO: REUTERS

Former FBI director James Comey's dramatic testimony before Congress last Thursday brought big audiences to US broadcast and cable networks, drawing about 19.5 million viewers, according to data from the Nielsen ratings agency. That is a large audience for a daytime event, though it is short of the 30.6 million who tuned in to President Donald Trump's inauguration in January. Bars in Washington opened early to show the drama and people across the country ditched work to monitor Mr Comey's first public appearance since he was dismissed by Mr Trump on May 9. US broadcast networks interrupted regular programming to air live coverage of Mr Comey's more than two hours of remarks before the Senate Intelligence Committee. High-profile congressional hearings have drawn big TV audiences in the past. In 1991, more than 20 million homes were tuned in as Ms Anita Hill testified before a Senate panel that then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her, according to CBS. Some 40 million people watched former Marine Corps Lieutenant-Colonel Oliver North testify in the 1987 Iran-Contra hearings. And the opening day of the Watergate hearings in 1973 drew about nine million viewers on the three commercial networks, NBC said at the time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 11, 2017, with the headline '19.5 million viewers tuned in to watch Comey testify'. Print Edition | Subscribe