Elon Musk’s bad tweets have gotten him into plenty of trouble over the years, costing him his position as Tesla chairman and landing him in federal court on more than one occasion. But during the Tesla CEO’s much-discussed appearance on Saturday Night Live last night, he offered a truly compelling reason for his behaviour: He’s eccentric.
“Look, I know I sometimes say or post strange things, but that’s just how my brain works,” he said during his opening monologue. “To anyone I’ve offended, I just want to say I reinvented electric cars, and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocket ship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?”
“Offended” is an interesting choice of words here. When Musk openly mocked British cave explorer Vernon Unsworth and called him a “pedo guy” on Twitter back in 2018, I don’t think Unsworth was offended so much as concerned about defamation and potentially losing his job. As anyone rightfully would be after one of the richest men in the world accuses you of being a pedophile in front of his millions of Twitter followers.
I also don’t think Tesla employees were offended but rather horrified when Musk, via tweet, threatened that anyone who unionized would lose their company-paid stock options. An administrative law judge later ruled that Musk’s tweet along with the company’s other union-busting efforts over the years violated federal labour laws. The National Labour Relations Board ordered him to delete the tweet earlier this year, but it’s remained up as Tesla seeks an appeal.
Moreover, many would argue that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission didn’t sue Musk in federal court in 2018 because they were offended, per see. But rather because he was accused of committing securities fraud by manipulating stock prices with tweets — and all for the sake of a limp-wristed 420 joke. (Musk later called the tweet, which cost Tesla a $US20 ($25) million fine and forced him to step down as chairman of the board in a settlement with the SEC, totally “worth it.”)
Then of course there was the time he brushed off the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, wrongly predicting that there would be “close to zero new cases” in the U.S. by April 2020 and sharing blatant misinformation about immunity with his over 50 million Twitter followers. It’s possible some were offended by his tweets demanding officials to “reopen” its economy and “FREE AMERICA NOW” at a time when the nation was reporting over 20,000 new cases per day. Many people would argue that, with an audience of that size, one has a certain responsibility to avoid spreading misinformation that could potentially hurt or even kill people. But those people are probably just snowflakes anyway.
During his SNL monologue, Musk shared a screenshot of another 420 joke he tweeted that didn’t manage to land him in the crosshairs of federal regulators, perhaps as a reference to his infamous 420 tweet. It reads: “69 days after 4/20 again haha.”