There have been many of these discussions in the past, and to me the constant theme is US skating fans project their own issues with the sport onto the general US public, and think that explains decline in skating popularity. Casual fans don't care about judging protocols--they really don't. When a casual viewer tunes in to watch Olympic diving, they aren't fretting over the judging system--they're just enjoying being entertained. Ditto with gymnastics, aerial jumping, etc. If the announcers bring up judging controversies, that's the first most viewers will have heard about it, and they'll only be interested in it as far as it relates to the human drama angle.
Similarly, casual viewers aren't refusing to watch skating because it's not a "real sport." People are assuming if only skating was shown more in the US, then people would watch it. What they aren't contemplating is skating *has* been shown in the US, and ratings steadily declined. The reason it's not shown so much anymore is because people aren't watching. Why? Because people simply are more interested in other things.
It reminds me of the political climate a few months ago where conservatives couldn't envision that anyone would actually want to willingly vote for Obama. So it had to be the case that polls were wrong, votes were bought, the media was brainwashing people, etc. But the reality was quite a bit simpler--more people liked Obama better. Similarly, there isn't some grand marketing problem with figure skating that could be remedied with competent people in charge at the ISU. And there isn't some harboring resentment of IJS or anything else. It's simply that people find other sports and television programming more interesting. The whole point of reality tv is to show live human drama, and viewers tend to eat that up. With Harding/Kerrigan, you had live human drama, so people ate that up.
Now, there isn't that external live human drama piece, so viewers are tuning in because they just want to watch skating. And there's never been all that many of such folk relative to the general population. There are so many options for people WRT sports, skating has to compete with crew, dressage, moguls, archery, rhythmic gymnastics, women's basketball, etc. Skating is a niche sport with a niche fanbase in the US, and always has been. People generally enjoy it when they see it at the Olympics, but they aren't going to go out of their way to view it anymore than they'll plan their schedule around the next speed skating comp.