Trump-less debate is second-lowest rated of the primary
© Getty Images

Thursday night's Fox News debate was the second-lowest rated debate of the primary season, according to a CNN report.

Without Republican presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE participating, the debate had an 8.4 rating with 12.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen ratings first reported by CNN.

That's better than the previous debate hosted by Fox Business Network, which got a 7.4 rating. But that was a strong number for Fox Business Network, which is less widely available than Fox News and CNN.

Thursday's rating would be much smaller than the 15.9 rating for the first GOP debate hosted by Fox News in August.

Trump appeared at that debate and clashed memorably with moderator Megyn Kelly when she asked him about his comments regarding women. A record 25 million people tuned in for the debate.

Trump decided to skip Thursday's debate. He criticized Kelly as biased, and slammed Fox News for a press release that ridiculed him. He also had argued that he was responsible for the high ratings of the first debate, and Fox said he asked for $5 million to participate on Thursday night.

Instead, Trump hosted a rival event to raise money for veterans, clips of which were shown on MSNBC and CNN.

Trump is likely to declare victory for the lower Fox ratings on Thursday night, though the two networks showing clips of his rally during the debate had about 2.7 million viewers combined, less than a quarter of Fox's audience.