April 19, 2024

Don Lemon, several months after being fired by CNN for making controversial comments on the air, said in January that he would have a new show, this time on Elon Musk’s X — formerly known as Twitter. But last week, shortly before the show was set to have its first episode — featuring an interview with Musk — the show was abruptly canceled. Lemon said Musk was “mad” at him over the interview, which was posted Monday on YouTube and X.

After the interview aired, Musk called Lemon “a bad guy, plain and simple” and said, “This is [why] CNN and legacy media are failing.”

Over the hour-plus interview, Lemon questioned Musk about his thoughts on several topics both professional and personal: Tesla’s future, diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, censorship on social media, allegations of racism, and more.

Here are some highlights.

Elon Musk on diversity, equity, and inclusion

Historically speaking, Musk has been an outspoken opponent of diversity initiatives and has repeatedly been called out for sexism over the years. 

Tesla dropped language referencing diversity from its annual shareholder report just weeks after Musk tweeted that DEI (or diversity, equity, and inclusion) is “just another word for racism.” The billionaire has also been criticized for claiming that Boeing’s issues with the 737 Max 9 were caused by hiring too many non-white pilots and factory workers.

Lemon pressed Musk on his comments, noting that the pilot on the Alaska Airlines flight that saw a high-profile door plug blowout in January was a woman who landed the malfunctioning plane safely — and that Boeing has taken responsibility for the incident. Musk cited replies to his posts on X to defend his comments and repeatedly insisted that “we shouldn’t lower standards.”

Musk also raised the hypothetical idea of lowering standards for medical practitioners.

“If the standards for passing medical exams and becoming a doctor — especially a surgeon — if the standards are lowered, then the probability that the surgeon will make a mistake is higher,” Musk said. “They’re making mistakes on their exam; they may make mistakes with people, and that may lead to people dying.”

He also explicitly accused Duke University of lowering its standards for students to promote more diverse candidates, although he could not provide any evidence for his assertion. A representative for Duke Health did not immediately return a request for comment.

Musk on racism allegations against Tesla

Last year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Tesla for violating “federal law by tolerating widespread and ongoing racial harassment of its Black employees and by subjecting some of these workers to retaliation for opposing the harassment,” at its flagship facility in Fremont, California.

There have at least a dozen lawsuits against Tesla over allegations of racial discrimination or sexual harassment in recent years. In 2019, 15 former or current Black employees sued Tesla, alleging they were subject to racial abuse and harassment at its factories, with most of the accusations taking place in Fremont. One of his other companies, SpaceX, has been sued for “routine, widespread, and longstanding” employment discrimination against asylum recipients and refugees; the case has subsequently been blocked by a U.S. judge.

On Friday, Tesla settled a race discrimination lawsuit with Own Diaz, a Black man who worked as an elevator operator at the California factory in 2015. He had previously been awarded $3.2 million in damages by a federal jury.

“I don’t believe that is true,” Musk told Lemon, referring to the EEOC’s allegations. “I never saw [any racist behavior]…Did I see any situations that I thought were improper? I did not.”

Musk on the Tesla Roadster

Tesla first unveiled a concept for its next-generation Roadster — the electric sports car that put it on the map — in 2017. The model was initially expected to return in 2021 but has faced many delays.

Musk has previously said a prototype for the next-generation model should be unveiled by the end of this year, with production starting in 2025. He also boasted that the Roadster would be able to hit 60 miles per hour in under a second and would be marked with a $200,000 price tag.

If Musk — who is known for making promises he can’t keep — delivers on that promise, the Roadster will be the fastest car for sale. The current fastest car in the world is a single-seat racer developed by students in Switzerland; in 2023, their “Mayhem” hit 62 miles per hour in 0.956 seconds.

“It’s going to have some rocket technology in it,” Musk told Lemon. “I think the only way to do something cooler than Cybertruck is to combine Tesla and SpaceX technology to create something that’s not even really a car.”

“Something that’s never existed before,” he added.

Musk also addressed Tesla’s fluctuating stock, telling Lemon that “stocks go up and down, but what really matters is ‘are we making and delivering great products?’”

Since 2024 kicked off, the Austin, Texas-based company’s stock has sunk 30%. As a result, Tesla is no longer one of the top 10 U.S. companies by market capitalization, trailing behind Visa and more recently JPMorgan Chase.

Despite rallying on Monday, Tesla stock is still the worst performer in the S&P 500 so far this year. The stock ticked up nearly 6% on Monday.

Musk on X’s advertising business

Dozens of advertisers — including Comcast, Apple and The Walt Disney Company — pulled their spending on X last November after reports that their companies’ ads were appearing next to pro-Nazi content and hate speech.

The onslaught of companies departing from X throughout 2023 cost the company $1.5 billion in ad revenue. Advertising earnings account for about 70% of X’s revenue, according to Bloomberg. X’s value has plunged at least 71% since Musk purchased the company — then known as Twitter — for $44 billion.

After the November outrage, Musk infamously told advertisers to “go fuck [themselves]” during an interview with the New York Times and called those advertisers “oppressors.”

“If they’re going to force censorship on the company before advertising, obviously I find that unacceptable,” Musk told Lemon. “Whereas the other platforms will censor on behalf of advertisers, X will not.”

Musk on endorsing Donald Trump or Joe Biden for president

The controversial duo of Musk and former President Donald Trump met earlier this month in Palm Beach, Florida, along with some high powered Republican donors. The meeting, first reported by The New York Times, came as Trump was — and still is — looking for campaign cash.

After The Times’ story was published, Musk posted on X that he was “not donating money to either candidate for US President.”

But in the interview published Monday, Musk said the meeting happened entirely by chance.

“I was at a breakfast at a friend’s place, and Donald Trump came by, that’s it,” Musk told Lemon, adding that “[Trump] did most of the talking.”

Musk added that he is “not paying his legal bills” and that Trump did not ask for money.

The Washington Post reported last week that Musk had met with Trump last summer to discuss a purchase of Truth Social, the alt-right social media platform Trump owns and exclusively posts on. Although Musk has not publicly supported either candidate, has has been frequently critical of U.S. president Joe Biden.

“I may, in the final stretch, endorse a candidate. But I don’t know yet,” Musk told Lemon. “If I do decide to endorse a candidate then I will explain exactly why.”

He added that he is “leaning away” from Biden, although he didn’t outright endorse Trump.

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