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John Kruzel
By John Kruzel July 3, 2017

Trump’s Pants on Fire claim that CNN ratings are ‘way down’

Days before President Donald Trump tweeted a video of him assaulting a CNN logo, Trump took aim at another place he said CNN was hurting: its ratings.

"Fake News CNN is looking at big management changes now that they got caught falsely pushing their phony Russian stories," Trump tweeted June 27, before adding: "Ratings way down!"

The reality TV star-turned-president has a well-documented fixation on television ratings that predates his time in office, and we've been checking Trump on statements about TV ratings as long ago as 2011.

Since the stakes of television viewership appear to loom large in the mind of the president, we decided to look more closely at CNN’s trendline.

The upshot: Trump is flat wrong

Trump’s claim that CNN’s ratings are down raises the question: compared to what?

Because his tweet made no mention of other cable news networks, we assume Trump is comparing CNN’s current ratings to past ratings.

Television experts we spoke to about how to gauge CNN’s trajectory suggested we compare CNN’s numbers from one year to the next, based on data from the second quarter (in 2017, second quarter ratings went from March 27 through June 25).

To get a comprehensive view, we were told to look at ratings across several benchmark metrics, broken down by audience demographics and viewing times.

Bottom line: CNN is at a five-year high in each of the categories we looked at, according to data provided by the Nielsen Company.




Total Viewers

Primetime, 25-54

Total Day,

Total Viewers

Total Day,


2017 Q2





2016 Q2

Featured Fact-check





2015 Q2





2014 Q2





2013 Q2





So when it comes to comparing CNN’s current ratings to past ratings, the verdict is clear: They’ve moved up in several major categories compared to recent years.

For its part, CNN called its second-quarter figures a "ratings milestone," with the cable news network tallying a record number of total viewers, and its best second quarter since 2003 in terms of total day viewership among 25-54-year olds.

"CNN just posted its most-watched second quarter in history," a CNN public relations account tweeted in response to Trump. "Those are the facts."

Our ruling

Trump said CNN’s ratings are "way down."

In fact, CNN is at a five-year high in several key categories, according to data provided by the Nielsen Company.

We rate Trump’s statement Pants on Fire.

Share the Facts
PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
Pants on Fire
CNN’s ratings are "way down."
Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Our Sources

Email interview with Daniel Holloway, senior television reporter at Variety, June 29, 2017

Email interview with Jeffrey Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University, June 29, 2017

Email interview with Robert J. Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television & Popular Culture at Syracuse University, June 29, 2017

TV ratings, The Nielsen Company

CNN news release, "CNN has most-watched second quarter on record," June 27, 2017

Washington Post, "‘Everyone tunes in’: Inside Trump’s obsession with cable TV," April 23, 2017


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Trump’s Pants on Fire claim that CNN ratings are ‘way down’

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