Trump ratings hit new low for State of the Union despite being a made-for-TV spectacle

President suffers lowest ratings of his White House tenure despite delivering major surprises

Highlights of Trump's State of the Union 2020

Despite serving up a State of the Union that featured all the fixings for a show-stopping television sensation, Donald Trump’s latest address to the American people suffered its lowest ratings of his presidency thus far.

The president’s speech drew an audience of about 37.2 million viewers on Tuesday night, according to the latest reports from the metrics company Nielsen. The figures reflected a drop of nearly 10 million from his State of the Union in 2019, when 46.8 million viewers tuned in to the speech.

Despite arriving near the close of the nation’s third impeachment trial, and Mr Trump delivering a number of surprises during the event, from “opportunity scholarships” to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the ratings for the speech were significantly lower than the previous three years of his presidency.

Mr Trump has been described as “obsessed” with television ratings. He has used reports of low ratings to mock his critics or apparent enemies in the media throughout his career, and frequently boasts of his own ability to pull big crowds for televised speeches and rallies.

The president also falsely claimed that ratings for his State of the Union address in 2018 were “the highest number in history”, when in fact Barack Obama’s State of the Union in 2010 had higher viewership ratings.

Mr Trump’s speech this week was a made-for-TV spectacle, complete with tear-jerking moments that included a military family’s reunion following a seven month deployment.

“I am thrilled to inform you that your husband is back from deployment, and he is here with us tonight,” the president told Amy Williams, wife of Sgt Townsend Williams, who was invited as a special guest. “We couldn’t keep him waiting any longer.”

The moment led to a tearful reunion between a military father, his wife and children, as well as a standing ovation across party aisles.

Mr Trump also caused controversy by rewarding Rush Limbaugh — a prominent conservative radio personality who has been accused of spreading racist and anti-immigrant sentiments — a Presidential Medal of Freedom during the event, with Melania Trump placing the medal on him in the middle of the address.

Presidential Medals of Freedom are a prestigious honour typically rewarded to civil rights icons like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr during their own ceremonial events.

Mr Limbaugh, who has recently been diagnosed with advanced cancer, appeared surprised when he was announced the recipient of the honour during Mr Trump’s speech.

The president also awarded a fourth grader with an “opportunity scholarship” during the address that would allow the little girl to attend a new public or private school.

“I can proudly announce tonight that an Opportunity Scholarship has become available, it is going to you, and you will soon be heading to the school of your choice!” Mr Trump exclaimed.

That scholarship was reportedly set to be paid for directly by Mr Trump's billionaire education secretary, Betsy DeVos.

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