“Thank you for all of the nice compliments and reviews on the State of the Union speech,” he tweeted. “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!”
And I quote: “45.6 million people watched, the highest number in history.”
This is not true.
Know how I know? Because, well, I typed “highest rated State of the union Speeches” into Google. And it sent me to the Nielsen website. There I learned that Trump’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday night was actually the sixth most watched of all time. In fact, Trump’s speech on Tuesday attracted 2 million fewer viewers than his SOTU-like speech last year. (Newly sworn-in presidents address Congress but the speech is not called a State of the union.)
Why lie about something that is so easily proven wrong? Good question! I have 3 theories:
1. Trump heard somewhere — likely “Fox & Friends” — that his State of the Union was the most-watched in history. So, he tweeted it. The end. Might he have misheard it from Fox (or wherever)? Sure. It’s possible that it was the most-watched among a certain segment of the population and Trump just missed that part. Or, wherever he heard it just got it flat wrong.
2. Trump is unaware he is lying. Trump is someone who has spent much of his adult life telling himself a story about his own life in which he is the benevolent hero. I’m not sure that if he took a lie detector test and was asked about some of his prominent lies (inauguration crowd size, Muslims celebrating on New Jersey roofs on 9/11, etc.) he would fail. There is the real possibility he believes the untruths because, well, he needs to.
3. Trump knows he is lying and doesn’t care. This follows the same logic as theory #2 except for the fact that Trump is self aware enough to know that he is deceiving people by pushing out untruths — and he just doesn’t care. If it works for him and the point he wants to make — in this case: I am extremely popular and watchable — then he says it. Whether it’s, you know, true or not, is immaterial.
Regardless of the “why” what we know now is that this President is saying things that aren’t true at a remarkably fast pace. According to stats kept by The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, Trump said more than 2,000 things that were either totally false or broadly misleading before he had even spent a full year in office.
Trump’s prevaricating isn’t a glitch, it’s a feature. He makes false statements compulsively — and shows zero willingness to adjust those statements if and when he is proven wrong. (The Post’s Fact Checker found 70 separate false claims that Trump had repeated at least three times; Trump has, wrongly, asserted that his tax cut was the biggest in American history more than 55 times. 55!
And the counts on what Trump has lied about don’t even include his many unverifiable claims — like that he has eliminated more regulations than any president in history. So you can assume there are plenty more questionable — or outright wrong — claims that didn’t even make the 2,000.
It’s easy to make fun of Trump for not telling the truth about something so easily checkable as the ratings for his State of the union speech. It’s basically why Twitter was invented. And I am as guilty as anyone of being glib about his little white lies.
But someone who lies about little things — things that are easily proven wrong — will also lie about big things. Big things that impact the country — now and in the future. When the person doing the lying (and lying and lying and lying) is also the President of the United States, we have a very big problem on our hands. And it’s no laughing matter.
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