Elon Musk probably hopes the matter of him baselessly smearing one of the divers who helped rescue a Thai soccer team from a flooded cave complex as a “pedo guy” is resolved with his issuance of a half-arsed apology on Wednesday. However, the question of whether he will face a lawsuit lingers on — as does the mess resulting from his other, somewhat less high-profile Twitter controversy of the last week.
As heat mounted on @elonmusk for a $US38,900 ($52,502) donation he gave to a pro-Republican PAC last quarter this weekend, he apparently asked environmental advocacy group the Sierra Club for a favour: Can you make my anonymous $US6 million-plus ($8 million-plus) donations no longer anonymous?
Per Bloomberg, which obtained an email from Sierra Club executive Michael Brune to staff, Musk made the appeal in the form of a phone call in which he asked if Brune could personally vouch for him on Twitter.
Brune did, and it apparently did not go well. Bloomberg writes:
Brune is now dealing with blow-back within his own organisation for complying with Musk’s requests. Two posts from his personal account and one sent from the Sierra Club’s Twitter handle that were laudatory of Tesla’s chief executive officer and his commitment to fighting climate change rankled some Sierra Club staff. They objected to Brune’s defence of an executive who funds Republicans and has bashed the United Auto Workers.
Here’s the tweets Brune sent from his personal account:
We're proud of Elon's support of our work. — and, we will continue vigorously fighting the climate deniers in the GOP. But Elon's innovation and leadership on climate cannot be denied.
— Michael Brune (@bruneski) July 15, 2018
Here is the one from the Sierra Club, which was just as forthright in dismissing concerns that Musk’s donations indicated a lack of commitment to climate issues:
There have got to be better topics of debate than whether @elonmusk is committed to climate action. He has dedicated his career to the mission of replacing fossil fuels with clean energy & has strongly backed the Sierra Club's advocacy work. We are proud to have his support.
— Sierra Club (@SierraClub) July 15, 2018
In his email to staff, Bloomberg wrote, Brune said that he would have granted the request to make a previously anonymous donation public to any donor.
He also said he took seriously concerns from staff who felt that praising Musk — who has reportedly long resisted United Auto Workers unionisation attempts at Tesla’s Fremont, California production plant — was a bad look given Brune is a co-chair of the BlueGreen alliance partnership between unions and environmental groups.
“I appreciate the concerns that I’ve seen online and in email that the tweets may be at odds with our support for workers’ rights and defeating the GOP agenda across the country,” Brune wrote in the email to his staff on Tuesday. “I don’t agree, but I see the risk and understand the concerns. Musk has made unhelpful anti-union statements and Tesla’s labour practices are also cause for concern, so I take your comments seriously.”
Given that the US Environmental Protection Agency is currently run by former fossil-fuel lobbyists and Donald Trump’s White House has gleefully taken the hacksaw to virtually all US federal climate change mitigation and preparation efforts, the Sierra Club probably has better things to do than get bogged down in a Musk tweet controversy.
Similarly, Musk probably had better things to do (such as ensuring his Tesla plant stays out of “manufacturing hell”) than create one.
But hey, here we are.