Trump falsely claims his SOTU TV viewership was 'highest' in history

Senior Editor
Yahoo News

President Trump says the 45.6 million television viewers for his first State of the Union address was “the highest number in history.” It was not. Not even close.

“Thank you for all of the nice compliments and reviews on the State of the Union speech,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “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!”

According to Nielsen, an estimated 45.6 million people tuned in to watch Trump’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night — or about 2.4 million less than the 48 million who watched President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address in 2010. President George W. Bush’s first State of the Union speech drew nearly 51.8 million viewers in 2002. Bush’s second State of the Union, in 2003, was watched by more than 62 million.

The figures provided by Nielsen and cited by Trump do not include the number of people who streamed the speech online.


Trump did edge President Bill Clinton’s first State of the Union, in 1994, which drew 45.8 million viewers. By comparison, Clinton’s 1998 speech was watched by more than 53 million.

And the number of viewers for this first State of the Union was about 2 million fewer than the 47.7 million Trump drew in 2017 for his first address to a joint session of Congress.

Obama’s first address to a joint session of Congress, in 2009, drew 52.4 million viewers, per Nielsen data. Just 39.8 million tuned in for Bush’s first, in 2001. Clinton’s first to a joint session address, in 1993, drew 66.9 million.

Trump has long been obsessed with ratings, from his “Celebrity Apprentice” show on NBC to presidential debates. He has previously falsely claimed that CNN’s ratings were “way down” while attacking the network.

Supporters watch President Trump speak at a State of the Union watch party hosted by the Hamilton County Republican Party in Cincinnati on Tuesday. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Supporters watch President Trump speak at a State of the Union watch party hosted by the Hamilton County Republican Party in Cincinnati on Tuesday. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Most viewers for State of the Union addresses since 1993

• Clinton, Feb. 17, 1993: 66,900,000*
• Bush, Jan. 28, 2003: 62,061,000
• Clinton, Jan. 27, 1998: 53,077,000
• Obama, Feb. 24, 2009: 52,373,000*
• Bush, Jan. 29, 2002: 51,773,000
• Obama, Jan. 27, 2010: 48,009,595
• Trump, Feb 28, 2017: 47,741,000*
• Clinton, Jan. 25, 1994: 45,800,000
• Trump, Jan. 30, 2018: 45,551,000
• Clinton, Jan. 19, 1999: 43,500,000
• Bush, Jan. 23, 2007: 45,486,000
• Bush, Jan. 20, 2004: 43,411,000
• Bush, Jan. 31, 2006: 43,179,000
• Obama, Jan. 25, 2011: 42,789,947
• Clinton, Jan. 24, 1995: 42,200,000
• Clinton, Feb. 4, 1997: 41,100,000
• Clinton, Jan. 23, 1996: 40,900,000
• Bush, Feb. 27, 2001: 39,793,000*
• Bush, Feb. 2, 2005: 39,432,000
• Obama, Jan. 24, 2012: 37,752,613
• Bush, Jan. 28, 2008: 37,515,000
• Obama, Feb. 12, 2013: 33,497,607
• Obama, Jan. 18, 2014: 33,299,172
• Obama, Jan. 20, 2015: 31,710,349
• Clinton, Jan. 27, 2000: 31,478,000
• Obama, Jan, 12, 2016: 31,334,349

Source: Nielsen

* Denotes speeches that were officially addresses to Joint Sessions of Congress.

Note: Viewership figures do not include online streaming data.

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