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Breaking: The New York Times reports Donald Trump will not take part in Thursday’s GOP debate.
The news came not long after Fox News announced the lineup for the debate, which, once again, had Trump front and center.
“Let’s see how much money Fox is going to make on the debate without me,” Trump said at a press conference in Iowa.
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski confirmed the frontrunner will not be attending. “He will not be participating in the Fox News debate on Thursday. It’s not under negotiation,” he said. “We’ll have an event here in Iowa, with potentially another network, to raise money for Wounded Warriors and Fox will go from having probably 24 million viewers for the debate to, you know, 2 million viewers,” Lewandowski added.
This all started in August, with the first GOP debate of this primary cycle–which, with 24 million viewers, was the most-watched non-sports cable program ever. Trump took offense to the way he was treated by debate co-moderator Megyn Kelly who will return to that role Thursday night.
But even after that dustup, he quickly returned to the Fox News airwaves, and has been a guest on multiple programs since, but not Kelly’s.
Fox News understands the risk that a debate without Trump will likely mean lower viewership. However, from the 24 million viewer peak in August, the most recent GOP debate on FBN Jan. 14 drew less than half that. CNN bucked the downward trend of debate viewership when it scored 18 million for its December GOP match.
Here’s the 2016 debate ranker, which includes Nielsen viewership data, along with livestreaming information provided by the networks.
|Aug. 6 | GOP||Fox News||24,000,000||7,900,000||2,400000**|
|Sept. 16 | GOP||CNN||22,940,000||6,900,000||4,500,000|
|Oct. 13 | Dem||CNN||15,791,000||4,998,000||4,300,000|
|Oct. 28 | GOP||CNBC||14,000,000||3,900,000||***|
|Nov. 10 | GOP||FBN||13,500,000||3,670,000||2,580,000|
|Nov. 14 | Dem||CBS||8,500,000||2,120,000||1,200,000|
|Dec. 15 | GOP||CNN||18,165,000||5,560,000||3,100,000|
|Dec. 19 | Dem||ABC||7,850,000||1,928,000||TBD|
|Jan. 14 | GOP||FBN||11,094,000||2,983,000||1,165,000|
|Jan. 17 | Dem||NBC||10,200,000||3,170,000||1,200,000|
|Jan. 28 | GOP||Fox News||TBD||TBD||TBD|
|Feb. 6 | GOP||ABC||TBD||TBD||TBD|
|Feb. 11 | Dem||PBS||TBD||TBD||TBD|
|Feb. 13 | GOP||CBS||TBD||TBD||TBD|
|Feb. 26 | GOP||CNN||TBD||TBD||TBD|
|Mar. 9 | Dem||Univision||TBD||TBD||TBD|
**Users needed to be an authenticated viewer to watch the livestream.
***CNBC is not sharing their livestream data.