Jan 25, 2017 - Economy

A brief history of Donald Trump exaggerating his TV ratings

Alex Brandon / AP

President Trump's recent fascination with his inaugural crowd size shouldn't be a surprise. Going back to the very height of his business career, he's always been obsessed with demonstrably proving his popularity, especially through television ratings. The problem? Historically, he hasn't been very good at interpreting them.

  1. 1986 to the United States Football League (he owned a team): Games should be moved to the fall to go head-to head with the NFL on TV!The USFL folded. From a federal appeals court in a subsequent antitrust suit against the NFL: "Courts do not exclude evidence of a victim's suicide in a murder trial."
  2. Throughout the mid-2000s to an NBC publicity exec for The Apprentice: "Number one show on television, won its time slot."The NBC exec: "I'm looking at the numbers and at that point, say season five, for example, we were number 72. I can't tell that to him. I can't say that. Maybe I should have, maybe I should have gotten Jeff Zucker involved, but he became kind of a monster when it came to these ratings."
  3. January 25, 2013 on Twitter: "President Obama's inaugural had record low ratings. What does that portend?"The ratings were completely in line with second inaugurals.
  4. January 16, 2015 to the Television Critics' Association: The Celebrity Apprentice "is the #1 show on television."It was #67.
  5. January 16, 2015 to the Television Critics Association: Actually, I meant The Celebrity Apprentice is the highest-rated show on Mondays.That was Mike and Molly.
  6. July 29, 2016 on Twitter: "As usual, Hillary & the Dems are trying to rig debates so 2 are up against major NFL games. Same as last time w/ Bernie. Unacceptable!"The first was the most watched debate in history, even up against MNF.
  7. July 30, 2016 on Twitter: "Nielson Media Research final numbers on ACCEPTANCE SPEECH: TRUMP 32.2 MILLION. CLINTON 27.8 MILLION. Thank you!"It's Nielsen. And the real numbers? Trump: 34.9m. Clinton 33.7m.
  8. November 27, 2016 on Twitter: "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally"He lost the popular vote by 2,864,903 votes. There is no evidence of any illegal votes.
  9. January 21, 2017: Trump sends Sean Spicer out to say that he had "the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period."That briefing spawned "alternative facts."
  10. January 22, 2017 on Twitter: "Wow, television ratings just out: 31 million people watched the Inauguration, 11 million more than the very good ratings from 4 years ago!"Technically correct, but Obama got 37.7 million viewers for his first inauguration in 2009.
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