Bush/Kerry Debate Draws 62.5 Million Viewers

With an estimated 62.5 million viewers, the first Bush-Kerry debate was a television hit and provided evidence of the intense interest in the presidential campaign.

The viewership was up 34 percent from the 46.6 million people who watched the first debate between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000, according to Nielsen Media Research. That 2000 debate also had competition from a baseball playoff game.

NBC, with 17.2 million viewers, topped the seven networks that aired the 90-minute debate, Nielsen said.

During the debate, television cameras ignored Bush and Kerry campaign wishes that they not air reaction shots — and President Bush’s occasionally peeved expression showed why they didn’t.

Cameras caught the president occasionally showing irritation during some of Sen. John Kerry’s responses. Kerry, for the most part, maintained a stoic expression and jotted notes.

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Credit: MSN Entertainment/AP