The Skittles Tweet Is So Mathematically Wrong

by Yvonne Juris

The numbers just don't add up. That's what a number of commentators and sources are saying about Donald Trump Jr.'s Skittles tweet about Syrian refuges. And a statistical breakdown of the Skittles analogy that Trump Jr. attempted to make has been clearly laid out piece by piece more than once in the past 24 hours. Aside from being xenophobic to begin with, Trump Jr.'s analogy is mathematically flawed.

For starters (get ready, math nerds), there are 54 Skittles in every two-ounce bag. Mashable's Marcus Gilmer breaks that down to mean that if three bags — or 162 pieces of that delicious candy — were placed in a bowl, you would, according to the website's number crunching, have a 1.9 percent chance of being killed by a poisoned Skittle in Trump Jr.'s hypothetical. The outlet goes on to provide other comparisons, such as the fact that one has a 1-in-11 million odds of dying in a plane crash and 1-in-5,000 odds of dying in a car crash. By those numbers, the article asserts, Trump Jr. is positing that a person is 100 times more likely to be killed by a Syrian refugee than in a car accident. And that just doesn't seem to make a whole lot of statistical sense.

Alex Nowrasteh at the Cato Institute also did an analysis of the Trump Jr. post, and said that, "The Trump Jr. terrorism-Skittles meme is useful to understand terrorism risk – it just requires a picture of a bowl large enough to fit about 7,200 pounds of Skittles."

Wrigley, the parent company of Skittles, weighed in on the comparison, saying, “Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy. We will respectively refrain from further commentary, as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing” in a statement provided by Denise Young, vice president of corporate affairs.

The Trump Jr. tweet went viral on Twitter, with reactions ranging from disgust to complete mockery of the candies-to-refugee comparison. Jon Favreau, former speechwriter for President Obama, also made mention of the boy from Aleppo, Syria whose picture went viral after he was found covered in ash following a Syrian airstrike.

And as it turns out, Trump Jr. wasn't the first to make such a tone-deaf analogy. The ridiculous candy analogy was first made by former congressman and right-wing commentator Joe Walsh, who posted a meme that featured a bowl of M&Ms and read, "If I had a bowl that was filled with 10,000 M&M's But I told you that 10 of them were deadly poison would you eat a handful?"

Walsh recently got into some heat after posting a tweet related to the July Dallas shootings which read, "3 Dallas Cops killed, 7 wounded. This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you." The tweet was later deleted. And that's the man the Trump campaign is apparently looking toward for inspiration.

A graphic that was reported on and published by the Huffington Post prior to the Skittles comparison also broke down and compiled data on the different ways Americans are killed annually. Islamic jihadist terrorists were listed as killing two, whereas falling out of bed killed 737.

In reality, human suffering should never be callously objectified in any way, shape, or form. For so many reasons — both mathematical and ideological — that tweet is just plain wrong.