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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) — The Republican candidates’ prime-time debate on Fox News Channel drew 24 million viewers, a record audience for a presidential primary debate, according to Nielsen data provided by Fox on Friday.

The tally for Thursday’s event was the highest non-sports telecast in cable history, a Fox spokeswoman said.

The brash style of billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump, who has dominated news coverage in recent weeks, and the large pool of candidates participating in the debate — 10 — had spiked interest.

An earlier debate Thursday on Fox News Channel featured the other seven Republican candidates, whose low polling numbers kept them out of the prime-time debate.

The two-hour prime-time telecast on Fox News Channel, which is owned by 21st Century Fox, drew 7.9 million viewers aged 25 to 54, the key group for advertisers on cable news broadcasts.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy and Lisa Richwine; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Photo: Republican 2016 presidential candidates (L-R) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, businessman Donald Trump, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, U.S. Senator Rand Paul and Ohio Governor John Kasich debate at the first official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in Cleveland, Ohio, August 6, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

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Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel, and a memoir.

Cruel as this may sound, I'm having a hard time cringing at the internet trolls now going after noisy right-wingers who propagandized against the coronavirus vaccine and then succumbed to the deadly disease.

One was Nick Bledsoe, a car mechanic in Opelika, Alabama. Bledsoe achieved minor celebrity opposing public efforts to contain COVID-19. He petitioned against school mask mandates and turned refusal to get shots into a political statement, negatively linking them to President Joe Biden. Bledsoe died of COVID at age 41, leaving a wife and four children.

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