Donald Trump claimed on Thursday morning that his State of the Union address was the most-watched in history, a statement that is demonstrably false. It’s just the latest example of Trump making grandiose (and patently false) claims about the popularity he believes he’s enjoying.
As Time reports, Trump, in typical Trump fashion, tweeted early Thursday morning with a dubious claim about his State of the Union ratings.
“Thank you for all of the nice compliments and reviews on the State of the Union speech. 45.6 million people watched, the highest number in history. @FoxNews beat every other Network, for the first time ever, with 11.7 million people tuning in. Delivered from the heart!”
You may have heard of the classic party game “Two Truths and a Lie”; let’s call this tweet “A Truth, a Half-Truth, and an Outright Lie.”
In terms of raw numbers, Trump isn’t lying. According to the Nielsen Company, which has been compiling TV ratings for generations, Trump did indeed bring in approximately 45.6 million viewers to his first State of the Union address.
President Trump falsely claims ratings for his State of the Union speech were the highest ever.
— CNN (@CNN) February 1, 2018
As for being the ratings being the “highest number in history,” he’s not even close. Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all had higher ratings for their first State of the Union address than Trump did. In fact, George W. Bush drew in 51.7 million viewers for his 2002 address — 13.3 percent more than Trump did this week.
He is, however, correct about his favorite news source: Fox News did indeed dominate the ratings when it came to coverage of the State of the Union address, according to Vulture.
Of course, this is not the first time Trump has over-inflated numbers to bolster his own sense of his supposed popularity. Literally within hours of his swearing-in, Trump was making boisterous (and, of course, false) claims about the number of people who attended his inauguration. Specifically, he claimed that 1.5 million people attended his inauguration, a claim not supported by facts. Further, photographs comparing Barack Obama’s inauguration to Trump’s showed that attendance at Trump’s was downright paltry by comparison.
— People (@people) March 7, 2017
Trump’s spokespeople tried valiantly to defend his claim, with Kellyanne Conway famously birthing the phrase “alternative facts” to describe Trump’s lie, and Sean Spicer claiming that “that was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period” — a claim that he later admitted he regretted making.