Much has been said about the content of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address delivered earlier this week, with a number of fact-checking websites pointing out that it was riddled with errors and falsehoods.
Content matters significantly more, but Trump’s speech failed in another significant way, at least according to his own measures: it drew in fewer television viewers.
This is the fourth speech Trump has given before a joint session of Congress (his first speech in 2017 wasn’t technically a “State of the Union” address). In 2017, approximately 47.7 million tuned in to watch him speak. This year, however, that number dropped by more than 10 million.
Around 37.2 million tuned in on Tuesday to watch Trump deliver his speech, according to reporting from Axios. That’s a 20.5 percent decline from the previous year.
Nielsen says Trump's ratings for the State of the Union were down 20% from last year and well below the numbers in 2017 and 2018. https://t.co/8FKPwWetOj
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) February 6, 2020
A decline by that margin may upset any president, but for the optics-minded Trump, it’s probably an even bigger blow to his ego.
Long before he became president, Trump frequently bragged about high ratings that his NBC television program, The Apprentice, received — even though, according to reporting from Vulture, Trump wasn’t always truthful, and the show sometimes performed much worse than he implied it had.
Trump continues to be obsessed with TV ratings, using the concept in recent weeks to deride Fox News for coverage of himself that he wasn’t particularly fond of. After a report from the network’s Chris Wallace, Trump warned that the news channel would suffer for it.
“Watch, this will be the beginning of the end for Fox, just like the other two [networks] which are dying in the ratings,” Trump said in a tweet on the matter.