In President Donald Trump’s mind, he received “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period—both in person and around the globe,” and now his first State of the Union address got the “highest” ratings “in history.”
Neither statement is true.
“Thank you for all of the nice compliments and reviews on the State of the Union speech,” the ratings-obsessed president tweeted Thursday morning. “45.6 million people watched, the highest number in history.”
And it doesn’t take much Googling to discover that Trump’s Nielsen ratings number lags behind that of President Obama’s first State of the Union in 2010, which was seen by 48 million viewers. George W. Bush likely holds the record for a true State of the Union speech at 62 million for his 2003 speech on the eve of the Iraq War.
Typically, a president’s first address to a joint session of Congress has done better in the ratings that their subsequent State of the Union address. That was true for Trump, who drew 47.7 million viewers in 2017; and for Obama, who had 52.4 million in 2009. President Bill Clinton’s first speech in 1993 was seen by a whopping 67 million people.
Given his admiration for Fox News, it seems possible that Trump was referring to the actual record that network set with 11.7 million viewers, more than any of its competitors. But that’s not what he said when he specifically cited Nielsen’s overall number.