Bush Iraq speech draws 42.5 million viewers

Thursday, January 11, 2007; 9:01 PM

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush's speech calling for a surge in American troop levels in Iraq drew 42.5 million TV viewers, more than either of his last two State of the Union addresses, Nielsen Media Research reported on Thursday.

But the live 30-minute broadcast on Wednesday outlining Bush's long-awaited new Iraq strategy, including plans to commit 21,500 more U.S. troops there, was far from his biggest prime-time hit.

The address from the White House library drew nearly 5.5 million more U.S. television viewers than his speech commemorating the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on America.

And it far surpassed the 23 million viewers -- a record low for Bush -- who tuned in to his prime-time speech from a North Carolina military base in June 2005 when he sought to rally public support then for continued U.S. involvement in Iraq.

But Wednesday's Iraq speech fell about 3.5 million viewers shy of his address last May announcing plans to send National Guard troops to the Mexican border.

And it was dwarfed by two of the biggest televised speeches of Bush's tenure -- his address to the nation in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 (82 million viewers) and his ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in March 2003, prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq (73.4 million).

By comparison, Bush's latest address on Iraq averaged more viewers than either of his last two State of the Union presentations (41.7 million and 38.4 million, respectively), though both of those ran at least an hour long.

The Nielsen tally for Thursday night included viewers on the four major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox -- as well as the three leading cable news outlets and Spanish-language broadcaster Univision.

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