NEW YORK (AP) — By the numbers, the Jan. 6 committee hearings drew 20 million live viewers on opening night, 11 million for the first day session and nearly 9 million for Thursday’s third episode.
But those traditional Nielsen corporate metrics don’t even come close to measuring the true reach of what’s being said.
Unforgettable moments from each hearing are sliced up for quick consumption on countless newscasts, comedy shows and online, to the point that some have later been seen live.
In many ways, it’s the first congressional hearing in a long time that appears to be tailored specifically to the needs of modern media, said Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at the City University of New York and a frequent media blogger.
“It worked,” he said.
While it’s impossible to know what – if anything – will be covered in the early stages of the hearing, it will extend well beyond the week’s news, but there are already breakout moments and characters.
GIULIANI AND ALCOHOL
Widespread: Clips of President Donald Trump’s former political director Bill Stepien, aide Jason Miller and committee member Liz Cheney saying that attorney Rudy Giuliani drank too much before advising Trump on 2020 election night.
Hours after the allegation was made, the clips were featured in the monologues of top-notch late-night comics Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel. The shows are typically watched by a combined audience of nearly 5 million people each night, with many more people watching online the following morning. Kimmel accompanied it with a film pack of Times Giuliani Acted Oddly to Defend Trump.
The episode resonated in part because it was a connecting moment in an otherwise very serious story, said Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University’s Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture.
“It’s something that people find immediately understandable that people who are important figures in a national political environment are being outed as wasted,” Thompson said.
Former Attorney General William Barr’s recorded statement that he found Trump “detached from reality” with some of his allegations of voter fraud starred in several messages about Monday’s hearing. It was a vivid and disturbing picture by a former president of the man who ran Trump’s Justice Department.
The nightly newscasts of ABC, CBS and NBC all showed the clip of Barr’s comment, and together the three programs typically reach more than 20 million viewers — or twice as many people who watched the hearing live.
There’s no count of the number of times it’s been repeated on cable news, or estimates of how many people have seen it that way.
Two anecdotal examples illustrate the extent to which it has been seen online. A clip of the moment posted to Facebook by Reuters has been viewed 928,000 times, and the clip posted to the New York Times Instagram account has been viewed 404,000 times.
DAUGHTER AND SON-IN-LAW
Filmed testimonies by Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, have been particularly effective, in large part simply because they come from the family of a man who values loyalty.
A clip of Ivanka Trump saying she trusts Barr’s assessment of the cheating allegations has been viewed more than 1.6 million times, and 1 million in an Instagram post by The Shade Room, a media outlet that focuses on celebrity entertainment , when Bloomberg shared it on Twitter. Twitter posts of the video uploaded by MSNBC and the committee itself received more than 900,000 views combined.
A video of her recollection of a call her father made with Vice President Mike Pence on the morning of January 6, 2021 was shown on each of the three evening news programs on Thursday, sometimes accompanied by the colorful descriptions of his language.
Kushner’s hesitant response to what he’d told his father-in-law about Giuliani — as if weighing in real time what it means to be under oath — became the stuff of jokes.
Previously little-known former White House Attorney Eric Herschmann became a breakout star last week for his filmed testimony of his conversations with John Eastman, the architect of Trump’s failed maneuvers to stay in power.
Herschmann, who edits his own colorful language, recalls saying, “Are you crazy?” as Eastman discussed a possible appeal against the Georgia election results in the Capitol the day after the riot. Like a strict parent, he tells Eastman the only words he wants to hear from him are “orderly transition,” and advises him to “get a damn good criminal lawyer. You will need it.”
Recognizing the potential impact of the testimony, Cheney posted it on Twitter the day before it was prominently featured at the hearing, giving it additional exposure. This also served to highlight the committee’s finding that Eastman had unsuccessfully sought a presidential pardon.
Politico even wrote a story about the art hanging on the wall behind Herschmann during his testimony.
Cheney’s prosecutorial portrayal of the committee’s case at the start of its only prime-time hearing drew widespread attention, along with some advice that may outlast her political career.
“Tonight I say to our fellow Republicans defending the untenable: There will come a day when Donald Trump will be gone – but your shame will remain,” she said.
The Associated Press tweet with video of Cheney making the remark has been viewed more than 1 million times.
One day, depending on how history views the events of January 6, 2021, it could come to the moment most remembered, such as when it was revealed during the Watergate hearings that John Dean Richard Nixon warned of a “cancer to the presidency”. said Thompson.
“I see that as the classic quote,” Thompson said.
Associated Press correspondent Arijeta Lajka in New York contributed to this report.