Updated: March 7, 2020 3:56:34 pm
If $500 million is spent on 327 million citizens, would each get $1 million or a little more than $1?
This rather simple mathematical question landed two United States journalists in a painfully embarrassing situation as they were left scratching their heads.
Brian Williams and Mara Gay made a gaffe while discussing a tweet on the whopping $500 million spent by US presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg on his election campaign live on air.
“Bloomberg spent $500 million on ads. The US population is 327 million. He could have given each American $1 million and still have money left over. I feel like a $1 million check would be life-changing for most people. Yet he wasted it all on ads and STILL LOST,” writer Mekita Rivas had tweeted on Super Tuesday. (Rivas has since made her Twitter account private.)
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While discussing Rivas’ social media post, Williams and Gay agreed with the tweet which claimed each citizen would get $1 million. But in reality, the actual amount would be around a paltry $1.50 each.
It’s true that Bloomberg spent $500 million on political advertisements before dropping out of the presidential race, and it is equally true that according to the latest census, the US has a population of approximately 327 million people.
See if you can spot the math error. 🤦♂️ pic.twitter.com/V3b7pRqYUe
— Scott English (@iamscottenglish) March 6, 2020
The mistake was soon rectified by the journalists and the media house, but it was too late. The clip had by then already gone viral, leaving netizens laughing out loud. It had over 10 million views at the time of writing this.
Williams, an MSNBC anchor, later said, “Turns out Mara and I got the same grades at math… I’m speaking of the tweet we both misinterpreted. He could give each American a dollar. The tweet is wrong.”
The network, too, issued an apology on Twitter regretting the error.
Bad math. The error was corrected on-air here: https://t.co/BKa3KqkDQP
— 11th Hour (@11thHour) March 6, 2020
Tonight on the air we quoted a tweet that relied on bad math. We corrected the error after the next commercial break and have removed it from later editions of tonight’s program. We apologize for the error.
— 11th Hour (@11thHour) March 6, 2020
Gay, a member of the New York Times editorial board, also tweeted about the gaffe, saying she was “buying a calculator, brb.”
Buying a calculator, brb 🙈
— Mara Gay (@MaraGay) March 6, 2020
Most people were baffled by the ‘math problem’ and some wondered how it even aired. Some school teachers said even those in the fourth grade would have gotten the calculation correct.
how did this end up on tv? pic.twitter.com/xUYIOChhKv
— andrew kaczynski🤔 (@KFILE) March 6, 2020
OMG!!! And then the NYT editorial board member says it is TRUE!
Seriously, did a producer allow that tweet to go on-air just because they hate Brian?
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) March 6, 2020
I am horrified. https://t.co/xz8p5dKwV6
— sean (@rameswaram) March 6, 2020
the craziest part of this insane clip is when Brian Williams says “don’t tell us if you’re ahead of us on the math” and you think he’s about to realize on air that it’s wrong– and he doesn’t. https://t.co/MAj2WxMYWp
— Daniel Roberts (@readDanwrite) March 6, 2020
It’s kind of hard to illustrate how gross income inequality is when you have blue checkmarks and news anchors being so mathematically inept they think $500 mil divides to about $1 mil per person in the USA. 😂
We’re doomed. https://t.co/m6NimhWVqJ
— Anthony Fantano Updates (@theneedledrop) March 6, 2020
I kept waiting for them to laugh and make fun of the person who tweeted that. They never did….. https://t.co/W5xF9f2O77
— Tom Crabtree (@itsCrab) March 6, 2020
Oh my goodness. On the bright side, every math teacher in America just got a fantastic example to use with their classes about why knowing how to do this stuff matters. https://t.co/nDC87ycpOR
— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) March 6, 2020
The widespread popularity of this obviously wrong tweet shows why Yang’s math-based messsage fell flat. https://t.co/dYjU31KsZF
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) March 6, 2020
Just showed this to my 4th grade students & told them to find the error. They immediately spotted it & were able to articulate that each American would get $1. MSNBC isn’t smarter than 4th graders. 😳🤦🏼♀️😭
— Jennifer Donaldson (@MsDTeachMe) March 6, 2020
I thought they were going to make fun of the tweet. But they… they didn’t.
— LA Banker (@LA_Banker) March 6, 2020
I don’t believe THIS !!!
And they go on to discuss it so seriously 😂😂😂
— Nandini 🇮🇳 (@NAN_DINI_) March 6, 2020
So, we only have 327 people in America now?
Feels roomy. pic.twitter.com/GEYoUtQ8An
— 🔥 𝕍𝕖𝕤𝕦𝕧𝕚𝕦𝕤 🔥 (@PentUpPower) March 6, 2020
OMFG !! I thought I was so bad in Math !?? I’m not that bad then
— Tip Chantal🧢🧢 (@ChantalTip) March 6, 2020
this is a joke right? people can’t actually be this stupid https://t.co/8lKR6i3FtS
— jay (@jehlpxyz) March 6, 2020
— 🇨🇦Toy Stretcher🇺🇸 (@Canucksblogger) March 6, 2020
I now feel less bad looking at ASER reports. If these guys haven’t learnt simple division, we can go a bit easy on Indian kids. https://t.co/iXhVDapVDV
— Sabyasachi Das (@sabya_economist) March 6, 2020
There were few who came to their defence, saying they too struggled to understand what went wrong. “You can laugh at them but they’re right; Mike Bloomberg should give everyone a million dollars,” one user said, while another joked that they would still like their $1.5 from Bloomberg.
I rewatched the clip three times before I got it.
— Reema Amin (@reemadamin) March 6, 2020
Wasn’t your fault. The editors there should have caught that.
— Shaun King (@shaunking) March 6, 2020
Confession: I had to break down and ask someone to explain to me why it was wrong.
— Erica L. Green (@EricaLG) March 6, 2020
I would still like my $1.50.
— Jeffrey Seglin (@jseglin) March 6, 2020
Don’t worry about it! Live TV is hard no matter how often you do it. And part of being human is inevitably making mistakes but being able to laugh at them (as you’re doing so graciously). Anyone who doesn’t recognize that needs to consider their own flaws & hypocrisy.
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) March 6, 2020
You can laugh at them but they’re right; Mike Bloomberg should give everyone a million dollars
— Holly GoLYTELY (@RegressiveElf) March 6, 2020
I was tricked by the tweet for a moment. I don’t blame them.
— Profiterole 🧢 (@Profiterole2) March 6, 2020
The person behind the original tweet made her account private following the gaffe and updated her Twitter bio to read, “I know, I’m bad at math.”
Michael Bloomberg, 78, dropped out of the 2020 presidential race on Wednesday and said he would back fellow moderate Joe Biden in his bid to win the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in November’s election.
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