Fact Check

Could Bloomberg Give Each American $1M with Money He Spent on Ads?

A bogus tweet was uncritically amplified on MSNBC.

Published March 6, 2020

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 10:  Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York City,  looks on before delivering his speech to delegates on the last day of the Conservative party conference, in the International Convention Centre on October 10, 2012 in Birmingham, England. In his speech to close the annual, four-day Conservative party conference, Prime Minister David Cameron stated "I'm not here to defend priviledge, I'm here to spread it".  (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images) (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Image Via Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Claim:
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg could have given each American $1 million for the amount of money he spent on political ads during his 2020 U.S. presidential campaign.

On March 3, 2020, a Twitter user posted a message that claimed former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg could have given each American $1 million for the amount he spent on advertisements during his failed 2020 U.S. presidential candidacy:

The tweet reached a much larger audience a few days later when it was uncritically presented by MSNBC anchor Brian Williams and Mara Gay, a member of the The New York Times editorial board:

While Williams said that this was an "an incredible way of putting it" and that it "all became clear" when he read this tweet on social media, the numbers in this message simply don't add up.

It's true that Bloomberg spent about $500 million on political advertisements. It's also true that the United States has a population of approximately 327 million people. However, if you doled out $500 million equally among 327 million people, they would not each receive $1 million. In reality, Bloomberg spent enough to give each American about $1.50.

So Williams and Gay were off by about $1 million per person.

At the time of this writing, neither Williams nor MSNBC had corrected the mistake. Gay posted a message on Twitter attempting to laugh off the blunder, writing that she was "buying a calculator":

Bloomberg has an estimated net worth of about $60 billion. If Bloomberg were to divide his wealth equally among the American population, each person would receive less than $200. In order for every American to receive $1 million, he'd need to draw from a wealth pool of $327 trillion.

Sources

Allison, Bill and Mark Niquette.   "Bloomberg Tops Half a Billion Dollars in Campaign Advertising."     Bloomberg.   24 February 2020.

Darby, Luke.   "Bloomberg Burned Through $500 Million to Implode on Super Tuesday."     GQ.   4 March 2020.

Herbert, Geoff.   "Brian Williams Criticized for Simple Math Error While Discussing Bloomberg on MSNBC,"     Syracuse.com.   6 March 2020.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.