TV Audiences for Obama's Prime Time Speeches

More people watched the president's speeches on Iraq, Afghanistan, and BP oil spill.

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President Barack Obama’s speech on Libya garnered the least television viewers of any of his crisis speeches, according to the Nielsen Company. The president spoke to the nation last Monday, March 28, more than a week after he ordered the U.S. military to lead airstrikes against Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi’s air defense. The strikes, part of the United Nations-approved effort to institute a no-fly zone, were designed to stop long-time autocrat Qadhafi’s regime from killing civilians who had called for his ouster, sparking nationwide violence. [Vote now: Did Obama handle the Libya no-fly zone the right way?]

The president took heat for holding the speech at Washington’s National Defense University, rather than in the Oval Office, and for waiting so long after the airstrikes began to speak. But some praised Obama for focusing his speech on the civilian lives the mission saved, and for condemning Qadhafi as a brutal dictator. But critics complained the president left many questions unanswered—like the mission’s future objectives, strategy, and benchmarks—and said he should have taken a stronger stance against Qadhafi staying in power.

Obama’s December 2009 speech on Afghanistan got a little less than double the TV viewers of the Libya speech, according to Nielsen, with his 2010 speeches on the BP oil spill and Iraq landing somewhere in between. [See photos of the unrest in Libya.]