NewsBusters

MSNBC FAIL: Bloomberg ‘Could Have Given Each American $1 Million’

MSNBC anchor Brian Williams just can’t seem to ever get his facts straight. During his 11th Hour show Thursday night, the hapless host eagerly seized on fake news from Twitter that the $500 million spent by failed Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg could have provided all 327 million American citizens with “$1 million” each. It’s actually about $1.50 each.

While discussing Bloomberg’s impact on the Democratic race with New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay, Williams asked if the billionaire would be willing to use his vast wealth help defeat President Trump in November: “But you see it as a possibility, if he wants to spend a billion bucks beating this guy, he could do it?”

 

 

Without bothering to check the blatantly false information, Gay immediately cited some astonishingly bad math from social media: “Absolutely. Somebody tweeted recently that actually with the money he spent, he could have given every American a million dollars.”

Williams was ready with the tweet from journalist Mekita Rivas, which flashed on screen:

I’ve got it. Let’s put it on the screen. When I read it tonight on social media, it kind of all became clear. “Bloomberg spent $500 million on ads. U.S. 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.

Despite the statistics being wildly and laughably wrong, Gay marveled: “It’s an incredible way of putting it. It’s true. It’s disturbing. It does suggest, you know, what we’re talking about here, which is there is too much money in politics.”

Once again, $500 million divided equally among 327 million people works about to be about $1.50 per person. Someone could barely even buy a cup of coffee with that.

In reality, it would take $327 trillion to give every American $1 million. That’s roughly 14 times more than the total gross domestic product of the United States in 2019, which was over $21 trillion. It’s also over 5,000 times more than Bloomberg’s entire estimated $58.3 billion net worth.

If MSNBC is going to scold politicians for getting facts wrong, it better make sure it can do basic math. Later in the show, Williams corrected the major error:

 

 

Here is a transcript of the March 5 exchange:

11:33 PM ET

(…)

BRIAN WILLIAMS: You have spoken with great knowledge about Mike Bloomberg on this broadcast and others, and so I want to ask you, do you take him at his word that he’s going to become a one-man bank, a one-man super-pac? In effect, will that make him the worst and most consequential presidential candidate in modern history?

MARA GAY [NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER]: I think money and politics in general is a serious concern and serious problem. I don’t know that this is the election year to have that battle, and frankly, I think Democrats who voted for Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg understand that. I think that the need to restore our democracy probably by removing Donald Trump from the White House is the most important thing. And that, you know, Michael Bloomberg didn’t get what he wanted, but he still has an opportunity right now to put his money where his mouth is and to make a huge difference by helping Joe Biden. And that would be quite a legacy for him, and I think that’s what he’s looking at. So once he can kind of have a moment, swallow his pride, and get back to work, that would be the best thing for the Democrats.

WILLIAMS: But you see it as a possibility, if he wants to spend a billion bucks beating this guy, he could do it?

GAY: Absolutely. Somebody tweeted recently that actually with the money he spent, he could have given every American a million dollars.

WILLIAMS: I’ve got it. Let’s put it on the screen. When I read it tonight on social media, it kind of all became clear. “Bloomberg spent $500 million on ads. U.S. 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.

GAY: It’s an incredible way of putting it. It’s true. It’s disturbing. It does suggest, you know, what we’re talking about here, which is there is too much money in politics. And it makes it difficult because what we want in politics – the point is to have competition, and the point is to have the best candidates and have people from all backgrounds be able to run and so that gives people real choice. Not just super-pacs and dark money flooding elections or even just a single billionaire with good intentions in this case.

WILLIAMS: Yeah.

GAY: But that said, this is a huge election year. What is at stake is existential for the American republic, but also for many Americans on a personal level. And you know, Michael Bloomberg still has an opportunity to make an impact and make it count.

(…)

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