Donald Trump accused of lying over ‘record’ State of the Union viewers

The President's 2018 state of the union address.

The President's 2018 state of the union address. Photo: AP

US President Donald Trump has been accused of lying after wrongly claiming his State of the Union address was watched by a record number of people.

Mr Trump tweeted Thursday night (AEDT) that 45.6 million people watched his inaugural State of the Union address, making it “the highest number in history”.

He also said the Fox News coverage of the speech “beat every other Network, for the first time ever, with 11.7 million people tuning in. Delivered from the heart!”

While the viewing figure quoted by Mr Trump was correct, that number was far from the largest State of the Union audience.

According to Nielsen ratings figures, the 45.6 million figure put Mr Trump’s speech below the viewing audience for former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Nielsen said the figure was also down about two million on Mr Trump’s 2017 address to the joint sessions of Congress in the first year of a presidency, which was watched by nearly 47.8 million people.

Former president Obama’s first State of the Union address in 2009 attracted 52.4 million viewers, with 48 million the following year.

George W. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union, which argued for the Iraq war, was watched by 62.1 million people.

In 2002, some 52 million watched Mr Bush’s post-9/11 union address when he warned of the “axis of evil”.

Mr Clinton’s speech to a joint session in 1993 was the most viewed ever with 66.9 million viewers.

Mr Trump was, however, correct in stating that Fox News dominated its cable rivals, with CNN attracting 3.1 million viewers, MSNBC claiming 2.7 million, and the remainder of the viewers tuning into America’s free-to-air networks.

The Trump administration has previouly been accused of misleading veiwing figures.

Former White Press secretary Sean Spicer last year said Mr Trump had drawn “the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe”, with photographs of the National Mall in Washington suggesting otherwise.

An analysis of Mr Trump’s first year in office by The Washington Post alleged the President made 2001 false or misleading claims in 355 days.

– With agencies

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