Nov 11, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Impeachment heads to live TV

Left is the Senate Watergate hearing room in May, 1973. Right is the House Ways and Means Committee hearing room in Longworth.

Senate Watergate hearing room in 1973 (left). House Ways and Means Committee hearing room (right). Photos: AP (left), Reuters.

The public phase of the impeachment inquiry of President Trump begins Wednesday at 10 a.m.

The big picture: The public phase is arguably the most important part of Democrats' efforts so far, as how the public experiences the hearings will determine how impeachment plays out.

Then: Back in 1973, tens of millions of Americans tuned in to what Variety called "the hottest daytime soap opera" — the Senate Watergate hearings that eventually led to President Nixon's resignation, AP's David Crary writes.

  • It was a communal experience, and by some estimates, more than 80% of Americans watched at least part of the telecasts.
  • Why it matters: Seeing the witnesses lay out the case against the president moved public opinion decidedly in favor of impeachment.

Now ... But this time may be different:

  • Many will watch on more than one screen, with real-time reinforcement of their preexisting views — on platforms that didn't exist during Watergate.

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