Huffpost Politics

ABC Debate: High Ratings, Critics Give Broadcast Poor Reviews

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"ABC World News with Charles Gibson" featured a segment from correspondent David Wright on the "debate" over last night's debate. The network portrayed the controversy as a debate among commenters, rather than an onslaught of negative reporting from major news outlets. Watch the video to judge for yourself and then scroll down for more about how the debate was received.

Media critics may be panning Wednesday night's Democratic debate on ABC, but the ratings today show that millions of people outside the nation's newsrooms have an opinion of how Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos performed last night.

ABC sent out a release proclaiming the debate to be "easily the most-watched of the 2008 presidential cycle" with 10.7 million viewers.

For the 8-10 p.m. time period, this marks ABC's best Total Viewing audience since 11/28/07, its largest Adult 18-49 rating since 2/27/08, and its best Adult 25-54 rating since 1/9/08.

The first hour of Wednesday's debate ranked first in its time period among Total Viewers, Adults 18-49 and Adults 25-54. Up against Fox's "American Idol" and an original episode of CBS' "Criminal Minds" at 9 p.m., the debate retained 96% of it Total Viewing audience, retained 100% of its Adults 25-54 audience, and grew 4% among Adults 18-49 from the first hour to the second hour.

Still, the high ratings don't appear to be helping the network's reputation among the critics. HuffPost has received a huge response from bloggers about the debate. The majority are negative.

USA Today gathered reports from other outlets slamming ABC for its performance last night:

The Washington Post's TV critic says Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos "turned in shoddy, despicable performances."

"For the first 52 minutes of the two-hour, commercial-crammed show, Gibson and Stephanopoulos dwelled entirely on specious and gossipy trivia that already has been hashed and rehashed, in the hope of getting the candidates to claw at one another over disputes that are no longer news. Some were barely news to begin with," Tom Shales writes.

Time's Joe Klein says he has "slightly--well, a microscopic smidgeon--more sympathy for the gotcha-moderators from ABC than Tom Shales does." He blames the trivial nature of the questions on the trivial nature of the campaign.

Guardian America's deadlineUSA blog issues its verdict with the headline: "Worst. Debate. Ever."

USA Today leaves out David Brooks' lonely article filled with praise for the debate. For the different perspective, read Brooks' article