New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay is blaming a “racist Twitter mob” for the criticism of her major on-air math blunder last week.
Gay appeared on MSNBC’s The 11th Hour with Brian Williams on March 5 and discussed a tweet which claimed: “Bloomberg spent $500 million on ads. The U.S. population is 327 million. He could have given each American $1 million and still have money left over.”
Williams, Gay, and the show’s production team failed to notice the glaring math error – that $500 million split between 327 million is $1.53 per person, not $1 million per person – and the $1 million per person figure was discussed during the segment as if it were accurate.
Williams remarked, “When I read it tonight on social media, it kind of all became clear” while Gay said, “It’s an incredible way of putting it. It’s true.”
The segment quickly went viral with Twitter users mocking the glaring math error and expressing surprise at how MSNBC’s fact-checkers, writers, and producers along with Williams and Gay had managed to miss the error.
MSNBC checking the math pic.twitter.com/EkaQYtiVSy
— Nathan (@Nate68978263) March 6, 2020
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) March 6, 2020
Math at MSNBC:
"Bloomberg spent $500 million on ads. The US population is 327 million. He could have given each American $1 million and still have money left over. It's an incredible way of putting it."
Now add in the smug attitude of the interviewer & interviewee. Comedy gold! https://t.co/rQhhB3vUYz
— Lorrie Goldstein (@sunlorrie) March 6, 2020
These are the people that give millions of Americans the news? @MSNBC do you all have writers, producers, fact checkers, anything?
— Beth Parlato for Congress (@BethforCongress) March 6, 2020
But despite most of the criticism being focused on math, Gay is claiming that “it wasn’t really about math.”
In an opinion piece published in The New York Times, Gay wrote: “When you’re a black woman in America with a public voice, a trivial math error can lead to a deluge of hate.”
She added that: “Across social media, right wing trolls celebrated. And some journalists did too. Most of them were men who are prolific on Twitter.”
In a tweet about the opinion piece, Gay also blamed “a racist Twitter mob” for the criticism of her math error.
A racist Twitter mob came for me over a trivial math mistake. I'm not going anywhere. https://t.co/McxAT8P7OI
— Mara Gay (@MaraGay) March 11, 2020
Twitter users have pushed back against Gay’s claims and pointed out that there’s “nothing racist about people pointing out your glaring math error” while also highlighting that Williams was criticized for the same segment.
Nothing racist about people pointing out your glaring math error.
It wasn’t trivial. You’re a public figure. Deal with it. https://t.co/i9imqjgjZU
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) March 11, 2020
What kind of mob went after Brian Williams? https://t.co/rNc4v1e4qu
— Chuck Ross (@ChuckRossDC) March 11, 2020
and…she blocked me 😂 pic.twitter.com/Bsh2TMFkJe
— Mark Dice (@MarkDice) March 11, 2020
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) March 11, 2020
The reaction would've been the same if you were a white male had you made an egregious math error. If fact, Brian Williams was for the exact same mistake.
— Razor (@hale_razor) March 11, 2020
This is really the only thing you journalists have in your toolboxes, isn't it?
— Justin Whang 🐙 (@JustinWhang) March 11, 2020
Since publishing the opinion piece, Gay has blocked several Twitter users who pointed out the criticism was about math, not race.