MSNBC’s Brian Williams and New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay are being teased for not catching a basic mathematical error on live TV.
Last night on The 11th Hour With Brian Williams, he and Gay discussed the demise of Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign. During their conversation, they noted that Bloomberg spent the astronomic sum of half a billion dollars on ads.
To put Bloomberg’s spending in context, Williams read a tweet by journalist Mekita Rivas, which the show also displayed onscreen.
“Bloomberg spent $500 million on ads,” Rivas wrote, “The U.S. population is 327 million. He could have given each American $1 million and still have money left over.”
Viewers who paid attention in third-grade math class quickly pointed out that Rivas had missed a decimal point or two. Five hundred million divided by 327 million is actually closer to a buck-fifty, or $999,998.50 less than a million dollars.
Williams and Gay, however, didn’t even notice.
“Don’t tell us if you’re ahead of us on the math,” Williams even said while he read the tweet, adding, “It’s an incredible way of putting it.”
People with basic math skills (or calculators) were highly amused. One confessed the clip “had me pulling out a calculator and thinking *I* was tripping.”
Members of the media were quick to note that the profession isn’t exactly known for its mathematical skills.
“Why we need more math journalists,” National Geographic science editor Nsikan Akpan tweeted.
“Maybe Bloomberg should have funded math education for journalists instead,” Twitter user @KallmesKevin wrote.
Conservatives, meanwhile, used the occasion to argue that if two successful members of the media could make a simple mistake, then all journalists and Democrats are wrong, or something. Socialism, single-payer healthcare, and universal basic income came up a lot.
“If this is the level of math ability and fact checking over at MSNBC, is it any wonder they think Bernie, Warren, and the rest of the Dems can afford their ridiculous plans?” Conservative politician Herman Cain tweeted.
Gay handled the incident with grace and humor. “Buying a calculator, brb,” she tweeted this morning.
Rivas, on the other hand, wasn’t going down without a fight … for some reason. Upon being called out for the math mistake, the journalist actually doubled down. In screenshots circulating on Twitter, she argued that Bloomberg could afford to give every American $1 million.
Unfortunately, she was wrong again.
Bloomberg’s net worth is $58 billion, which he means he could give every American about $175, or $999,825 less than $1 million.
Rivas later protected her tweets and changed her bio to read, “I know, I’m bad at math.”
Nobody argued with that conclusion.