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GOP debate draws 24M viewers, becomes most-watched cable event in history

By Doug G. Ware
GOP debate draws 24M viewers, becomes most-watched cable event in history
People attend a watch party for the Republican presidential debate at the Harry Buffalo bar in Cleveland, Ohio on August 6, 2015. The top ten candidates, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and John Kasich met in the first prime time debate for the 2016 presidential election while the six other major declared candidates, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, and Jim Gilmore, participated in an earlier debate. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

CLEVELAND, Aug. 7 (UPI) -- Thursday evening's debate among the top Republican presidential frontrunners was the most-watched non-sporting event in cable television history, Nielsen research revealed Friday.

According to Nielsen, about 24 million people watched the Fox News event -- which was the first debate among the Republican frontrunners. An earlier debate between the rest of the GOP field garnered about six million viewers, the numbers said.

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Thursday's debate easily outdrew Fox's previous record of 11.8 million viewers during a debate from the 2012 race, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The event, however, was not enough to top January's college football championship game between Oregon and Ohio State, which drew an audience of nearly 33.5 million.

RELATED Donald Trump lashes out on Twitter following debate, attacks Megyn Kelly

Perhaps one of the biggest factors in Thursday's viewership was the participation of the outspoken Donald Trump, who delivered numerous barbs during the debate.

"What I say is what I say. Part of the problem this country has is being politically correct. I don't have time for total political correctness," Trump said of his blunt manner of speaking.

The debate also became known for one jab Trump made about a particular former daytime talk show host.

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RELATED Rosie O'Donnell responds to Donald Trump's debate jeer

"Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don't use a politician's filter. However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women," Fox News personality and moderator Megyn Kelly said. "You've called women you don't like 'fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.'"

"Only Rosie O'Donnell," Trump quipped.

The former actress responded immediately via Twitter.

RELATED Primary GOP candidates go after Obama, Clinton, each other in first 2016 debate; Trump takes spotlight

""Try explaining that 2 ur kids," O'Donnell posted.

The next GOP debate is scheduled for Sept. 16. The first Democratic debate will take place Oct. 13. Both will be hosted and broadcast by CNN.

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