Brian Williams Makes an Enormous Math Goof

He apologizes after repeating claim that Bloomberg could have given each American $1M
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 6, 2020 1:08 PM CST
Brian Williams Makes an Enormous Math Goof
Brian Williams of MSNBC.   (Photo by Brad Barket/Invision/AP, File)

"Bad math" might be understating it here. MSNBC's Brian Williams had to issue an on-air mea culpa after repeating a wildly incorrect claim about Michael Bloomberg's wealth. In an interview with New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay, the pair discussed a popular tweet (since deleted) asserting that instead of spending $500 million on his campaign, Bloomberg could have given each American $1 million and still had plenty of money left over. "When I read it tonight on social media, it kind of all became clear,” Williams said. "Bloomberg spent $500 million on ads. US population, 327 million. Don’t tell us if you’re ahead of us on the math. He could have given each American $1 million and have had lunch money left over. It’s an incredible way of putting it." Unfortunately for Gay, she agreed.

At least until they went to commercial break, during which someone informed them that Bloomberg could have given each American $1, not $1 million. The latter would have cost him $327 trillion, notes the Daily Beast. "Turns out Mara and I got the same grades at math," Williams said. "I’m speaking of the tweet we both misinterpreted. ... Stand corrected. Sorry about that." Later, the show issued an apologetic tweet over the "bad math" as well. Williams, though, was still taking his lumps on social media, notes the Hill. It mentions this jab in particular: "One way to get rich is to keep asking Brian Williams to give you two tens for a five." At the conservative National Review, Charles Cooke thinks the gaffe is telling because the pair genuinely thought the tweet was true. That speaks volumes about the misguided views those on the left have about the uber-rich, he writes. (More Brian Williams stories.)

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