Musk blasts the media on Twitter
First it was Wall Street analysts. Then, short sellers, and then the United Auto Workers. Now, the media is the subject of billionaire Elon Musk’s ire.
Journalists are critical of electric-car maker Tesla Inc. because oil and traditional auto companies are some of the biggest advertising spenders, the chief executive officer wrote in a flurry of tweets Wednesday afternoon. The public no longer respects the media because of “holier-than-thou hypocrisy” and lies, he said.
Musk, 46, was riled by a Robert W. Baird analyst report that said “increasingly immaterial” headlines were dominating Tesla news cycles. The first of his tweets spurred reactions from several journalists who compared Musk with President Donald Trump.
“Thought you’d say that,” Musk wrote back to a reporter for tech website The Verge. “Anytime anyone criticizes the media, the media shrieks ‘You’re just like Trump!’ Why do you think he got elected in the first place? Because no ones believes you any more. You lost your credibility a long time ago.”
Like Trump, Musk communicates directly to a massive Twitter audience -- about 21.8 million followers, to be precise -- and has been combative and defensive with the media for years. Another tendency he shares with the president is his lack of regard for convention.
The CEO criticized analysts on Tesla’s most recent earnings call for asking “bonehead” questions and proceeded to take 23 minutes worth of questions from a 25-year-old owner of a millennial-focused YouTube channel. This didn’t play well with the establishment on Wall Street but drew praise from his loyal base of supporters.
Musk may well have benefited this week from pressure that the Trump administration put on China to open up its auto market. The government announced it will drop the tax levied on imported vehicles to 15 per cent in July, from 25 per cent. Tesla has no local manufacturing base in the country where it generated more than US$2 billion in revenue last year, despite the duties rendering its Model S sedan and Model X crossover much more expensive than competitive vehicles.
Still, headlines about the good news for Tesla in China have been overshadowed in recent weeks by persistent struggles making the Model 3 sedan -- intended to be the company’s first mass-market car -- and the billions of dollars in cash the carmaker has burned through as a result. U.S. regulators also are probing two fatal crashes involving Tesla vehicles and the driver-assistance system Autopilot. The company’s shares are down more than 10 per cent this year.
Toward the end of his tweet storm, Musk floated an idea of a way to combat unfair media criticism.
“Going to create a site where the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score over time of each journalist, editor & publication,” he wrote. “Thinking of calling it Pravda...”
The name, which means “truth” in Russian, is an apparent reference to the official newspaper of the former Soviet Union. But Musk apparently has taken steps to create his own Pravda: The California Secretary of State’s website shows that a Pravda Corp. was registered in October in Delaware. The filing agent and the address listed -- 216 Park Road, Burlingame, California -- are the same as those used on state filings for at least two other Musk entities: Neuralink Corp. and Boring Co.