'The highest number in history'? Not even close.
You’re shocked, we know.
President Donald Trump on Thursday morning tweeted a brag about his State of the Union address ratings that was perfectly inaccurate:
What’s real in here is the total audience number from Nielsen: 45.6 million viewers watched Trump’s speech across 12 networks on Tuesday night.
What is #fakenews is the president’s claim that this is “the highest number in history.”
It’s not the most-watched State of the Union speech on television. Not even close.
Trump himself beat it during last year’s speech (47.7 million, though technically an Address to the Joint Sessions of Congress).
President Barack Obama beat it during his Address to the Joint Sessions of Congress in 2009 (52 million) and then again during his official State of the Union in 2010 (48 million).
President George W. Bush topped Trump’s latest speech in 2002 (51 million) and by a large margin in 2003 (62 million).
President Bill Clinton surpassed it in 1993 (67 million) and then again 1998 (53 million).
The figures cited by Trump — and released by Nielsen — don’t include people who watched the speech online, which would obviously add to the total. But going off the numbers being discussed, let’s look at this chart from Nielsen:
And that’s only as far back as 1993. The thing is, there was nothing embarrassing about the audience that Trump actually got. It’s a perfectly typical number for a second-year-in-office address. Yet, apparently, somehow it’s not enough.
Update: Trying to walk it back, the White House is now saying Trump meant the speech was the highest in cable TV history, even though that’s not what he actually wrote. Also, Trump himself hasn’t deleted his tweet or corrected it.