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This is bad math. $500 million divided by 327 million people would be roughly $1.53 per person, not $1 million.
MSNBC corrected the error on air and on Twitter.
MSNBC anchor Brian Williams aired a tweet during his TV show that said former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who self-funded his since-suspended presidential campaign, spent so much money on ads that he could have instead delivered every American a fortune.
"Bloomberg spent $500 million on ads," the tweet said. "The U.S. 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."
Williams read from the tweet after it was introduced by Mara Gay, a member of the New York Times editorial board, who said that "somebody tweeted recently that actually, with the money (Bloomberg) spent, he could’ve given every American a million dollars."
how did this end up on tv? pic.twitter.com/xUYIOChhKv— andrew kaczynski🤔 (@KFILE) March 6, 2020
"It’s an incredible way of putting it," Williams said after displaying the tweet on screen.
If that sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is. A quick use of a calculator shows that $500 million divided by 327 million people is actually about $1.53 per person.
Williams quickly corrected the error on air, and the Twitter account for his TV show issued a correction and apology in a tweet posted hours after the show finished.
"Turns out Mara and I got the same grades at math," Williams said after a commercial break. "I’m speaking of the tweet we both misinterpreted. He could give each American a dollar."
"The tweet is wrong," he said.
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 also tweeted about the incident, saying she was "buying a calculator, brb."
As for the author of the original tweet, she switched her Twitter account settings to private but wrote in her bio, "I know, I’m bad at math."
Bloomberg did spend in the ballpark of $500 million on ads and other campaign-related finances, according to reports. And the census estimates that the U.S. population is a little more than 327 million people.
But even at roughly $500 million, the billionaire didn’t spend nearly the amount of money he would've needed to give every American $1 million. That’s bad math.
We rate this statement Pants on Fire!
Andrew Kaczynski on Twitter, March 6, 2020
The 11th Hour on Twitter, March 6, 2020
Mara Gay on Twitter, March 6, 2020
U.S. Census Bureau, "United States QuickFacts," accessed March 6, 2020
The Center for Responsive Politics, "Michael Bloomberg," accessed March 6, 2020
Business Insider, "Mike Bloomberg's failed presidential campaign cost him over $500 million. Here are some of the things the billionaire spent money on, from free booze and NYC apartments for staff to catered events for supporters," March 5, 2020
CBS News, "How much did Mike Bloomberg spend per delegate? About $18 million," March 4, 2020
Bloomberg News, "Bloomberg Tops Half a Billion Dollars in Campaign Advertising," Feb. 24, 2020
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