While this audience is dwarfed by the 82 million who watched then President George W. Bush address to the nation in the immediate aftermath of the Bin Laden-orchestrated Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. soil, it is believed to be Obama’s largest TV audience of his presidency to date.
“Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world, the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children,” Obama announced around 11:35 p.m. Sunday, speaking from the East Room of the White House.
“It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory -- hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction,” the president continued.
The crowd – reported by The Nielsen Company to be 56.7 million viewers -- is believed to be the largest TV audience Obama has attracted since shortly after being sworn into office, when 52 million watched his first Address to the Joint Session of Congress. That’s Washington-speak for “guy who just got inaugurated five weeks ago’s State of the Union Address.”
In coming up with Sunday’s stat, Nielsen cumed viewers who watched Obama on ABC, CBS, NBC, Telemundo, Univision, CNN, Centric, CNBC, FNC, HLN and MSNBC.
To put Sunday’s audience into presidential perspective:
*Nearly 68 million people watched, in 1998, as President Bill Clinton acknowledged, on TV, the whole Monica Lewinsky thing
*And about 60 million people watched President Richard M. Nixon deliver his resignation speech on TV in 1974 -- when there were lots fewer people, and certainly lots fewer TVs, in the United States.
*About 41 million people watched Ronald Reagan inaugurated in 1981 -- the largest presidential inauguration on record. (About 38 million watched Obama’s inauguration in January of ‘09, which is the second most watched presidential inauguration)
*Approximately 133 million TV viewers watched the first night of the Persian Gulf war on Jan. 17, 1991.
*About 95 million viewers sat transfixed to their TV sets as authorities engaged in a slow-mo chase in Los Angeles with O.J. Simpson’s Bronco, back on June 17, 1994.
*Just over 33 million viewers watched Princess Diana’s funeral, in Sept. 6, 1997.
*And, of course, 23 million watched Prince William wed Kate Middleton last Friday.
Watch Obama’s announcement: