The tech bros move fast and break things, and none wields the sledgehammer as aggressively as Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter. In just a few days, Musk has laid off half his staff, alienated the advertisers that provide most of the company’s revenue, and proposed a series of changes that could alienate users. Many regular tweeters fear that Musk will allow anyone to post anything, turning the platform into a cacophony of bad publicity.
The Twitterverse may be in shock, but this is nothing new for Musk. Since starting his first company in 1995, Musk has built a remarkable entrepreneurial career on bold moves that sometimes seem like reckless and unfiltered ideas, no matter who they offend.
Considering Musk’s many conundrums, he’s become more emboldened as his successes mount. Unlike most CEOs, Musk isn’t afraid of controversy and may actually enjoy it. He pushes boundaries and usually gets away with it. Outside of his areas of expertise, Musk’s ideas may seem simplistic, but they reflect an overwhelming belief in his ability to solve any problem—he now turns to Twitter. Here are some of Musk’s most memorable powders over the years:
The co-founder spat. Martin Eberhard, one of the five Tesla co-founders, is suing Musk for ousting him in a battle for control of the company two years ago. Musk and Eberhard agree to confidential terms.
“Trophy wife.” Musk’s first wife, Justine Musk, publishes an article alleging that Musk tried to shape her as a “trophy wife” along with other personal views on her makeup. Musk has been married three times to two women and dated celebrities like Amber Heard and Grimes. He has at least nine kids and he’s kidding.”I’m doing my best to help with the underpopulation crisis.”
Going after the critics. Musk is fighting back after the New York Times trashed Tesla’s first sedan, the Model S, saying the car was stuck on the freeway. Musk personally refuted that opinion in a Tesla blog post, citing data records of the car that disproved the Times’ claims. The Times refutes this denial, blurring the truth a bit but proving Musk’s determination in the face of criticism.
Rocket men. Musk, who is the CEO of SpaceX, trolls Jeff Bezos, the owner of the space company Blue Origin, whose rocket is better.
Rudely. Musk revealed that he spends nights in a sleeping bag at the Tesla factory to help the company meet its aggressive production targets. Analysts debate whether a CEO should do this.
Autopilot problems. The first death of a Tesla driver using the self-driving “Autopilot” function occurred in Florida. As of 2022, more than 30 deaths have occurred in Tesla cars operating on Autopilot, with critics saying Tesla is promoting the technology too cautiously. The government is investigating. Musk, ever the pioneer of technology, challenges the network by saying that Autopilot is saving lives.
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There. Musk disputes the scientific accuracy of Matt Damon’s blockbuster “The Martian” and says he wants to send people to Mars by 2025.
Cheap cartridge? Musk denies the story that he fired an assistant who asked for a raise. The journalist who reported this says that the anecdote is “very well-sourced”. It is not clear who is right.
“Thick skin.” A former employee is filing a racial discrimination lawsuit against Tesla, citing, among other things, an email Musk sent to employees saying that if someone acts like a jerk but then apologizes, “it’s important to have thick skin.” Some critics believe Musk is subtly telling employees to tolerate racist behavior. Tesla has faced dozens of accusations of racism over the years and has settled some cases for millions of dollars.
Reducing immigration. Musk tweets that President Donald Trump’s immigration ban is “not true” — but then quickly deletes the tweet. Musk’s fans and critics wonder what his real message is.
Haha. April fool’s day, Musk tweets “Tesla is completely and utterly bankrupt.” Everyone knows it’s a joke, but critics wonder if it’s something a CEO should do. Of course not.
“Pedo boy.” Musk proposes an experimental mini-submarine to rescue children trapped in a cave in Thailand. A rescue diver told CNN that Musk “could stick the submarine where it hurts.” Musk has pushed back, calling the diver a “pedo boy” or a pedophile. The rescuers freed the Thai children. It’s unclear if Musk’s mini-sub will work. Diver eventually sued Musk for defamation. Musk wins.
420 dollars. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is accusing Musk of securities fraud because he plans to take Tesla private for $420 per share, even though there is no such plan. Musk never deletes tweet. But he settles with the SEC by paying a fine, relinquishing his role as chairman, and agreeing to have company-related tweets approved by lawyers, tee-hee.
Poof. Musk gets weed on Joe Rogan’s podcast. The moralists scream and Tesla shares fall 8%. But nothing happens and stock is restored. Moose then says weed isn’t for him because it’s “not very good for fertility.”
Just kidding. Musk mocks the SEC, which he just signed a settlement with.Shortsellers Enrichment Corporation.” Critics say he should have been more careful. But nothing happens.
Still here. Musk said in his tweet that he deleted his Twitter account. He didn’t.
I’m not a doctor but… Musk publishes a number of false information about the COVID-19 pandemic, e.g predicts it will disappear immediately and says that children are immune. Medical experts say Musk should stick to cars and rockets.
Trumpian. Musk goes Trump by reopening Tesla’s California factory in defiance of local COVID shutdown order. Two months left until the pandemic, Musk tweets, “FREE AMERICA NOW.” After telling employees they could stay home, Tesla is laying off some who say they don’t feel safe returning to work during the pandemic.
Sell! Musk tweets, “Tesla’s stock price is too high,” doesn’t impersonate any CEO. Shares fell 9%. When a CEO deliberately sends his stock down, heads explode trying to figure out if it’s market manipulation.
Duh. The Wall Street Journal reported on correspondence from the SEC to Tesla that Musk violated an agreement in 2018 requiring company lawyers to review Musk’s tweets. No one knows what to do about it.
Against the Union. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) orders Tesla to reinstate a worker with back pay who was fired in 2017 while organizing for a union. Musk suggested unionized workers could lose stock options, which the NLRB interpreted as a threat.
Biden-basher. One tweet, Musk calls President Joe Biden a “wet sock puppet in human form.” Musk’s beef with Biden is apparently his reluctance to highlight Tesla as an electric car pioneer because he’s not in the alliance. Business historians have struggled to find another example of a prominent CEO openly trolling an American president with juvenile imagery, and have failed to find one.
Taiwan peace plan. Musk said in the interview that Taiwan could ease hostilities with China by giving back some control to the communist government in Beijing, which is contrary to US policy. China’s ambassador to the United States appreciates the idea. “Our freedom and democracy are not for sale,” says a Taiwanese official. Geopolitical experts tell Musk to stick to cars and missiles.
Ukraine peace plan. Musk tweets A 42-word plan to bring peace to Ukraine by formalizing Russia’s permanent annexation of Crimea and letting other Russian-occupied territories vote on which country it likes best. The Ukrainians are going ballistic because Musk’s plan is similar to Russia’s own talking points. Musk may have spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin or his representatives before tweeting the plan. Geopolitical experts tell Musk to stick to cars and missiles.
Twitter subscription plan. After it completes its acquisition of Twitter on October 27, Musk says Twitter will begin offering the blue “verification” badge it wants to anyone who pays $8 a month. He also suggests that Twitter will lift its ban on Trump and have looser rules on posting fake content. Many prominent tweeters have threatened to quit, and social media experts say Musk should stick with cars and rockets. Also, Musk is now in charge of Twitter.
Rick Newman is the senior columnist Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @rickjnewman
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