NEW YORK — Anderson Cooper’s interview with Stormy Daniels propelled “60 Minutes” to its highest-rated episode in 10 years, according to Nielsen ratings.
Preliminary ratings, known as “overnights,” showed the episode drawing more than twice as many viewers than a typical edition of the show.
When the final ratings are in later on Monday, the program is expected to rank as the highest-rated “60 Minutes” episode since Barack and Michelle Obama sat down for their first post-election interview in 2008.
The CBS newsmagazine benefited from a huge ratings lead-in — an NCAA basketball game that went into overtime.
The outpouring of reactions after the interview aired suggest that her account of an alleged affair with Donald Trump in 2006 captivated viewers across the country.
While President Trump stayed silent about the subject, Daniels’ name was the No. 1 trending topic in the U.S. on Twitter on Sunday evening — and stayed at the top of the list for several hours after the broadcast. Daniels was also a trending topic on Facebook.
The sexual encounter allegedly happened a decade before Trump was elected president. But the apparent cover-up is much more recent.
The porn star’s media-savvy attorney, Michael Avenatti, bluntly told Cooper, “This is about the cover-up.”
On Monday, Avenatti made the rounds on the morning shows, promising to reveal “a whole host of evidence” about the alleged affair and the attempt to silence her.
“We’re just getting started,” Avenatti said.
While critics grumble that Avenatti may be overplaying his hand, Sunday’s Sunday’s “60 Minutes” broadcast was undeniably newsworthy. The broadcast contained new information about the alleged affair in 2006 and marked the first time that Daniels described being threatened by an unknown person in 2011, a few weeks after she agreed to talk to a tabloid magazine about Trump.
“I think it was important for people to actually see her and hear her,” Cooper said on CNN’s “New Day” on Monday.
“Viewers can make up their own mind whether they believe she’s credible,” he added.
The two-part “60 Minutes” story also focused on the “hush money” payment in 2016 from one of Trump’s personal attorneys and the possible campaign finance law violations.
“The Stormy Daniels story is certainly about sex but it’s also — and more importantly — about financial and emotional intimidation,” Margaret Sullivan wrote in a column for Monday’s Washington Post.
“The ultimate verdict” on Cooper’s interview “will be whether viewers accept his claim that this is serious news,” Politico’s Michael Calderone wrote.