Editors' pick: Originally published Oct. 20.
Fox News Channel, moderating its first presidential debate between nominees of the two major parties, won the ratings battle for an event that will long be remembered as the day that Republican candidate Donald Trump refused to guarantee he would respect the election's results.
The debate itself, held in Las Vegas and moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace (pictured above), was watched by 63.7 million people, according to data compiled by Nielsen. Fox News, a unit of Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox (FOXA) - Get Report , pulled in 11.4 million viewers, plus another 6.6 million at its parent's flagship Fox network.
Each of the other major broadcasters -- Disney's (DIS) - Get Report ABC, Comcast's (CMCSA) - Get Report NBC and CBS (CBS) - Get Report attracted between 10 million and 11 million viewers. Time Warner's (TWX) CNN, which had shared the moderating of the second debate with ABC, generated 8.7 million viewers, Nielsen said.
Ratings for the Las Vegas event were far lower than the record-setting first debate held on Sept. 26 at Hofstra University in Long Island, N.Y., which tallied 84 million viewers. Wednesday's debate held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas generated just slightly less than the 66.5 people who watched the second debate held on Oct. 7 at Washington University in St. Louis.
By comparison, the third presidential debate between president Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney in 2012 attracted 54 million viewers.
The Las Vegas debate on Wednesday, though, proved to be a much-needed win for Fox News, the historically Republican-leaning network that was thrown into turmoil in July following allegations of sexual harassment against its co-founder and 20-year chief, Roger Ailes. Like Trump himself, Ailes was dogged by multiple sexual harassment charges, ultimately leading to his ouster on July 21, just hours before New York real estate developer Trump accepted the Republican Party's presidential nomination.
The debate also was a victory of sorts for Wallace, an anchor who had famously tangled with Bill Clinton over the pursuit of Osama Bin Laden as well as liberal political satirist Jon Stewart, former host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, over the question of Fox's political bias.
Democrats never had previously agreed to participate in a debate with a Republican opponent moderated by Fox News.
The debate, of course, was not without its moments of taunts, name-calling and specious reasoning, most notably from the Republican candidate. In calling for a policy led by the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, Trump said it was essential to combat crime despite evidence that the crime rate for immigrants is lower than for U.S. citizens.
"But we have some bad 'hombres' here, and we're going to get them out," the Republican candidate said, using the Spanish word for men.
And then in an exchange over Social Security, Trump responded to Clinton's charge that the Republican would seek to avoid paying more into the system by exclaiming "Such a nasty woman." The candidate earlier asserted, "Nobody has more respect for women than I do" in contending that the sexual assault allegations against him have been "largely debunked."
But the sharply differing views between the candidates over immigration, tax policy and gun control were overshadowed by Trump's unwillingness to say whether he's prepared to accept the results of the Nov. 8 election. Seeking to nail down Trump's position on a sensitive subject that strikes at the heart of electoral traditions, Wallace asked the Republican if he would concede to the winner in the event that he loses.
"What I'm saying is that I will tell you at the time," Trump said. "I'll keep you in suspense. OK?"