President Trump claimed on Twitter Thursday that the television audience for his State of the Union address was "the largest in history."
More than 45.5 million American households tuned in to watch the address Tuesday night, according to preliminary Nielsen Co. ratings.
The Nielsen Co. has kept consistent records on State of the Union ratings since 1994, and there have been four State of the Union addresses with higher audience's than Trump's on Tuesday.
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. @FoxNews beat every other Network, for the first time ever, with 11.7 million people tuning in. Delivered from the heart!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 1, 2018
President George W. Bush saw the highest audiences early in his presidency — 51.8 million in 2002 and 62 million in 2003 — as the nation recovered from the 9/11 terrorist attacks and launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
President Obama's first State of the Union in 2010 held an audience of 48 million, and President Clinton's first in 1994 gathered 45.8 million, just edging out Trump's first.
Those numbers don't include each president's first televised address to Congress in their first inaugural year, because those speeches aren't technically State of the Union addresses. Those speeches almost always get higher ratings than the State of the Union — and indeed Trump had an audience of 47.7 million last year.
But Trump — returning from a day-long Twitter hiatus on Thursday morning — trumpeted the numbers as validation of the speech itself.
"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," Trump said. "Delivered from the heart!"
(Trump also noted that his preferred network, Fox News, led the pack of 13 networks carrying the event with 11.7 million viewers.)
The former reality television star's obsession with ratings — and his propensity to inflate them — predates his presidency. He often claimed, inaccurately, that his show The Apprentice was the number 1 show on television.
The Trump White House boasted of large inaugural crowds and historic television ratings for Trump's inaugural address, setting a combative tone with the press from the first day of his presidency as White House press secretary Sean Spicer battled with reporters challenging the claims.
Gary Levin contributed from New York.