Debate viewership down; Middle East yawned, Chinese and Gitmo detainees were all ears


(Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Perhaps due to competition from baseball playoffs and Monday night football — or was it because this presidential face-off was a relatively dull affair, filled with tedious talk of counterfeit valves and the like? — it garnered only 59.2 million viewers for U.S. networks, down from 66 million for the second debate, and 67 million for the first.

Even in the Middle East, the region that dominated the discussion between President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney, the reaction was mostly yawns, our colleagues Michael Birnbaum and Keith Richburg report. Israel and Iran apparently had better things to do than tune in.

And in Egypt, folks had more immediate concerns, like “whether or not the country has a working legislature.”

Minor stuff.

The Chinese, though, were all ears, with plenty of interest, especially since the debate “live-streamed starting at the relatively convenient time of 9 a.m.”

And the yap-fest did attract some viewers with a distinct stake in U.S. foreign policy — apparently, some detainees at Gitmo eagerly tuned in to watch the dust-up in Boca Raton, Fla. Two cellblocks of detainees watched on TV, while another cellblock listened to the radio broadcast.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.

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