FACT CHECK: Was Trump’s State Of The Union The Most Watched In History?

Kush Desai | Fact Check Reporter

President Donald Trump claimed in a Thursday tweet that his State of the Union address was the most watched in history.

Verdict: False

Trump’s first State of the Union address was the sixth most watched since 1994.

Fact Check:

After receiving positive press for his Tuesday address, Trump expressed gratitude and went on to claim that it was also the most watched in history.

“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,” he tweeted. “Delivered from the heart!”

Data from market research firm Nielsen confirm that about 45.6 million people tuned in to watch Trump’s speech, but this viewership only makes his State of the Union the sixth most watched since 1994.

President George W. Bush’s 2003 speech had the highest ratings according to Nielsen, with 62 million viewers. President Bill Clinton’s 1998 speech was the second most watched, with 53 million viewers.

This ranking only includes speeches that are, strictly speaking, State of the Union addresses. Newly-inaugurated presidents also give a Joint Address to Congress in a style similar to the State of the Union speech within the first couple months of their presidency.

Nearly 48 million people tuned in to watch Trump’s February 2017 Joint Address, actually beating ratings for his first State of the Union speech, according to Nielsen. It was also the third most-watched Joint Address since 1993, behind Clinton’s in 1993 and President Barack Obama’s in 2009.

Speech viewership has tended to peak early on in each presidency. Clinton’s last State of the Union in 2000, for instance, had less than half the viewership of his 1993 Joint Address, according to Nielsen.

A White House official pointed The Daily Caller News Foundation to an article by the online magazine Deadline Hollywood that called the speech “the highest rated SOTU ever for cable news.” Cable news networks include CNN, FOX News and MSNBC.

The 45.6 million figure that Trump cites from Nielsen, however, also includes other major networks such as ABC, CBS and NBC.

The State of the Union by some measures did make the greatest impact on social media. Twitter reports that it was the most tweeted State of the Union or Joint Address ever, surpassing the record his Joint Address set in 2017.

The ratings data by Nielsen do not include internet streaming, which has grown in popularity in recent years.

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Kush Desai

Fact Check Reporter


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