Commentary

Elon Musk's Stormy Weekend On Twitter

Tesla, SpaceX and The Boring Company chief Elon Musk appears to have a production problem that has nothing to do with automobiles: Too many tweets — his own, as well as those by critics reacting to a news story that he had donated $38,900 to Protect the House, a Republican PAC.

Yesterday, Musk tweeted to his 22 million followers that Vernon Unsworth was a “pedo guy” after the British cave diver involved with the rescue of the Thai soccer team charged that the entrepreneurs bringing a miniature submarine to the scene of the unfolding drama was a “PR stunt.”

That follows a barrage of rebukes — many from purported fans — after ProPublica published a list of donors to the PAC whose purpose is to maintain GOP control of the House of Representatives.

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“The controversy appears to have been kicked off by reports from outlets including Salon” that followed up on the filings with the Federal Elections Commissions compiled by ProPublica, the independent investigative journalism group, reports Fortune’s David Z. Morris. “Detractors, primarily on Twitter, say the donations contradict Musk’s purportedly pro-environment and socially progressive image, while illustrating deeper problems with the role of money in politics,” he continues.

“Critics have characterized Musk’s contribution as support for a party that opposes much of what he claims to stand for. Above all, the GOP has long been affiliated with attempts to deny the science that predicted climate change, while Musk created an entire company, Tesla, aimed at spreading green-energy technologies.”

Musk’s response has been to defend his green credentials while denying that he is a top contributor to any political party.

Nate Silver, meanwhile, points out that “it's extremely misleading not to mention Musk has a long history of *also* donating to Democrats, including in this political cycle.”

Back to the cave.

Yesterday, “Musk made a series of allegations towards [diver Unsworth] while giving no evidence for them. The diver has said he is ‘astonished and very angry’ by the posts, and suggested he could take legal action’” writes Andrew Griffith for The Independent.

“The tweets came after Unsworth said that Musk's plan to save the children from the cave ‘had absolutely no chance of working.’ He said that the SpaceX boss had no conception of the makeup of the caves and that his involvement was simply a ‘PR stunt’.”

“The interview spread through the weekend — until a Twitter user baited Musk into responding to it, just as he had been lured by another fan into devising his submarine,” writes the Washington Post’s Avi Selk on the Chicago Tribune’s site. “In a series of tweets that Musk appears to have deleted while this article was being written, he claimed that he had been repeatedly asked by rescuers to build the sub. He wrote that he was escorted into the cave by Thai Navy SEALS — ‘total opposite of wanting us to leave.’

“He said he had not seen Unsworth — whom he dismissed as ‘this British expat guy who lives in Thailand’ — during his brief guided tour of the cave system and suggested that, therefore, Unsworth had not actually participated in the rescue operation. (He absolutely and crucially had, per CNN),” Selk continues.

“‘… I challenge this dude to show final rescue video,' Musk said, referring to Unsworth,” NPR’s Scott Neuman writes. “A few minutes later, Musk added, ‘You know what, don't bother showing the video. We will make one of the mini-sub/pod going all the way to Cave 5 no problem. Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.’

“Musk did not provide any context or evidence for his claim against Unsworth. And later, in another since-deleted tweet, said ‘bet ya a signed dollar he is,’” Newman adds.

The rebukes have been global.

“Billionaire Elon Musk has launched a bizarre Twitter rant against a heroic Brit caver …,” begins the lede to Thea Jacobs’ and Jon Lockett’s story in the U.K.’s The Sun.

“It’s official: Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has gone full Donald Trump,” writes Nick Whigham for the Australian news.com.au. “It may be a tired comparison, but attacking people on Twitter with baseless accusations like Mr. Musk did this morning by calling one of the Thai rescue divers ‘pedo guy’ has sealed the deal.”

Twitter “slammed” him, reads  the hed over a compilation of tweeted reactions by Candice Nembhard for Highsnobiety. It includes this suggestion from Tommy Vietor:

“Some advice for @elonmusk’s PR team:
- Draft an apology statement now
- Compile a list of key validators
- Duct tape him to a chair until you’ve destroyed all his internet-connected devices.”

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