MSNBC has apologized for promoting a tweet with egregiously incorrect math as “true.”
Newsweek reports a factually incorrect tweet from journalist Mekita Rivas got more credit than it deserved on Thursday, when it was read on the air by MSNBC’s Brian Williams.
The tweet criticized Michael Bloomberg’s spending on his now-suspended presidential campaign, saying that the $500 million in campaign-ad spending could’ve instead been given to the 327 million people living in the United States, guaranteeing each person $1 million.
Williams featured the tweet on his show, The 11th Hour, and he and his guest, New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay, took it at face value.
MSNBC's Brian Williams and NYT Editorial Board member Mara Gay do the math and conclude that Journalist Mekita Rivas is right, with the $500 million Bloomberg spent on ads he could have given $1 million to every American. pic.twitter.com/S9yWNqxoHN
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) March 6, 2020
Of course, the math in Rivas’ tweet makes no sense. Bloomberg’s campaign would’ve only been able to give each American about $1.50, not $1 million.
“When I read it tonight on social media, it kind of all became clear,” Williams said during Thursday’s segment. “It’s an incredible way of putting it.”
Gay agreed with Williams. “It’s an incredible way of putting it,” she said. “It’s true.”
Later in the broadcast, during another segment, Williams apologized for the error. “While I have you both and our audience paying attention, 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 $1,” he said. “Again, I didn’t have it in high school. I don’t have it tonight. I stand corrected. Sorry about that. The tweet is wrong.”
The official Twitter account for The 11th Hour also sent out an apology and correction.
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
Rivas’ Twitter account, meanwhile, is currently private, but many people have been sharing screenshots of her original tweet online. She updated her bio with a response to critics: “I know, I’m bad at math.”
Gay joked about the error on Twitter. “Buying a calculator, brb,” she wrote.
After being called out for her mistake, Rivas initially doubled down.
The math was still wrong, as Bloomberg does not have enough money to give everyone $1 million.
— JT Brown (@jbrown8421) March 4, 2020
327 people could get $1,000,000
3,270 could get $100,000
32,700 could get $10,000
327,000 could get $1,000
3,270,000 could get $1
All of these equal $327,000,000.
— M Crawford (@mdcraw4d) March 4, 2020
— Lmayberry (@Slainte423) March 6, 2020