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Republican Debate Shatters Fox News Rating Record, 24 Million Watched

An estimated 24 million people watched Thursday's debate, more than doubled Fox News' best ratings in the past, during the 2012 presidential election.

An estimated 24 million people watched Fox News Channel's prime-time debate with the top 10 Republican presidential candidates, the highest-rated broadcast in the network's history.

The Nielsen company said Thursday's debate ratings more than doubled Fox News' best ratings in the past, for election night 2012. A debate with seven lower-polling candidates earlier Thursday had 6.1 million viewers.

The debate turned into a slugfest with front-runner Donald Trump in particular feeling the heat. He tweeted out criticism of the network's three moderators as "not very good or professional" and retweeted a message from a supporter who called the network's Megyn Kelly a "bimbo."

Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes defended his moderators, calling it "the best political debate team ever put on television."