After weeks of delay, President Joe Biden finally delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. But while he may have expected his speech to be a hit with Americans, reports suggest it was anything but.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, ratings for Biden’s address — which was not technically a State of the Union, since it’s only his first year in office — fell far short of numbers seen by his last four predecessors in the White House.
Citing Nielsen data, The Hollywood Reporter said Biden’s speech saw a total viewership of 26.94 million. Just on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, 23.44 million tuned in.
It’s a far cry from the figures seen by his predecessors. Prior to Biden’s speech, the least-watched first joint address came from then-President George W. Bush, at 39.79 million in 2001, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Former President Bill Clinton’s 1993 speech saw 66.9 million viewers, Barack Obama got 52.37 million viewers in 2009, and Donald Trump got 47.74 million in 2017. In 2020, Trump’s State of the Union drew around 37 million viewers, according to THR.
South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott’s rebuttal to Biden’s Wednesday address, which aired immediately following the president’s speech, was reported to have drawn an estimated 16.39 million viewers across just six channels: the broadcast networks ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as cable outlets CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC.
The State of the Union ratings are in:
Trump 2017 – 48M
Trump 2018 – 46M
Trump 2019 – 46.8M
Trump 2020 – 37.2M
Biden 2021 – 11.6M
But Biden got 81,000,000 votes? 🤣
— Ryan Fournier (@RyanAFournier) April 29, 2021
Biden reportedly spoke Wednesday about everything from the coronavirus to gun reform, and made a hard push for his newly unveiled American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion proposal that USA Today described as “a sweeping package that includes paid family leave, free community college, subsidized child care, and other proposals to expand the nation’s social safety net.”
He also renewed calls for a $15 federal minimum wage, according to USA Today, and declared: “Let’s end cancer as we know it.”
In his rebuttal, Sen. Scott called for unity and bipartisanship, saying that Biden and his party’s policies were sowing division.
“Our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes,” the Republican said, according to Politico. “We need policies and progress that brings us closer together. But three months in, the actions of the president and his party are pulling us further and further apart.”
He also lamented that Democrats had failed to work with him on police reform measures, but expressed hope for the future. “My friends across the aisle seemed to want the issue more than they wanted a solution,” the senator said. “But I’m still working, I’m hopeful that this will be different.”