President Trump has told a lot of brazen lies in his first year in office, but few are as easily exposed as the one he told Thursday morning about the TV ratings for his first State of the Union address.
TV-ratings information is public, and Trump’s tweet was quickly fact checked. Unsurprisingly, it’s false. Fewer people watched Trump’s first SOTU than the initial addresses of Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton. Obama’s first SOTU in 2010 had just over 48 million viewers, while Bush’s, in 2002, had nearly 52 million. Clinton’s 1993 address just edged out Trump’s with 45.8 million viewers.
It’s become common in moments like this to try to find a grain of truth in Trump’s false statements in an attempt to figure out what he could possibly mean. That’s why some people are wondering if Trump is assuming streaming numbers, which aren’t included in the above and surely dwarf those from previous presidents, put him over the top. Maybe so, but that’s not the metric he cited in his tweet.
While the White House might muddy the waters by mentioning streaming in its attempt to explain Trump, the more likely explanation is that he was willing to lie in the face of fact. It’s what he did last year when he inflated the the size of the crowd that watched his inaugural address. And it’s what he did for many years prior when he claimed that the The Apprentice was the No. 1 show on TV. It wasn’t.