President Donald Trump is obsessed with ratings, we knew that. After all, he made fun of Arnold Schwarzenegger for low Apprentice ratings and he can’t stop talking about the size of his crowds, whether during the campaign or, now, the inauguration. On Saturday, his press secretary flat-out lied and said Friday had the “largest audience to ever witness the inauguration—period.” And on Sunday, Trump took time off from being the commander-in-chief to celebrate the just-released television ratings for the inauguration, writing on Twitter that the numbers were “11 million more than the very good ratings from 4 years ago.”
The president isn’t lying about the numbers. What he wrote is technically true, but it’s a false comparison. Trump compared his numbers to Obama’s second inauguration for a very good reason—he didn’t even come close to reaching the former president’s 2009 ratings. Some 30.6 million people tuned into the inauguration on Friday, according to Nielsen, which measured the 12 networks that aired at least some live inaugural coverage. In 2009, 37.7 million viewers tuned in to watch Obama be sworn-in, a number that plunged to 20.6 million for his second term.
What the president did lie about then is that Obama’s 2013 inauguration had “very good ratings.” Far from it. Since 1969, the only inauguration that had lower ratings than 2013 was George W. Bush’s second inauguration in 2005.
Overall Trump’s inauguration ranked fifth in terms of total viewers, behind Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration in 1981 (41.8 million viewers), Obama in 2009 (37.7 million), Jimmy Carter in 1977 (34.1 million), and Richard Nixon in 1973 (33 million). Trump just barely beat out Bill Clinton, who had 29.7 million people tune in to his inaugural, and George W. Bush in 2001, when 29 million tuned in.