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    Elon Musk and Don Lemon clash in tense interview: A quick look

    In a now infamous interview with ex-CNN journalist Don Lemon, tech mogul Elon Musk offered his candid views on a plethora of issues, ranging from the future of the Tesla Roadster to the role of advertisers on X and allegations of racism within his companies. The interview, intended as the debut episode of Lemon’s new show on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, quickly turned sour.

    The fallout resulted in a canceled show deal for Lemon on X and exposed a side of Musk rarely seen before. Musk, known for his brash pronouncements and intolerance for criticism, bristled when Lemon pressed him on sensitive topics like racism allegations against Tesla and his promotion of conspiracy theories.

    Beyond the fireworks and among the few less contentious topics, Musk also shed light on the next-gen Tesla Roadster, with him outlining ambitious plans for the electric sports car, including rocket technology and unparalleled speed capabilities. Boasting about a sub-one-second 0-60 mph time and the inclusion of “rocket technology,” Musk tried to generate excitement for the project. Yet, even here, Musk’s penchant for grand visions was evident, as he proposed a vehicle “not even really a car” but something entirely novel. “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,” Musk said. However, delays continue to plague the car, raising concerns about Musk’s ability to deliver on his promises.

    Meanwhile, a significant part of the conversation revolved around Musk’s approach to content moderation on X, where he expressed a reluctance to remove content unless it was illegal. This stance was challenged by Lemon, especially in the context of a study highlighting a rise in hateful and antisemitic posts on the platform, which Musk dismissed by questioning the impact of these posts if they went unread. “If nobody reads it, it doesn’t matter,” Musk stated.

    Musk, who is also the chief executive officer of SpaceX and Tesla, insisted X would not censor content to appease advertisers, even though advertising revenue is crucial for the platform’s survival. “You can choose where you want your advertising, what you want your advertiser to appear next to, but you can’t insist on censorship of the entire platform,” he said. “If you insist on censorship of the entire platform, even where your advertising doesn’t appear, then obviously we will not want them as an advertiser,” he added.

    Talking about the precarious state of X’s advertising business, Musk downplayed the mass exodus of advertisers from the platform after hate speech and content moderation concerns surfaced. The billionaire noted that not all but some of the company’s advertisers have returned to the platform. “It’s a very short list of advertisers who are not coming back to the platform, and our advertising revenue is rising rapidly and our subscription revenue is rising rapidly and I feel very optimistic about the future of the X platform,” the billionaire assured.

    Another controversial aspect of the interview was Musk’s dismissal of allegations of racism within Tesla. Despite lawsuits alleging racial discrimination at Tesla, Musk denied any wrongdoing and claimed he never witnessed such behavior.

    The discussion took a more personal turn as it touched upon Musk’s views on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies. Musk’s suggestion that society should “move on” from its historical focus on racism was met with pushback from Lemon, who shared his own experiences of discrimination. The interviewer noted that for “someone to say that that hasn’t happened (racial discrimination) and I should just move forward and ignore the past” is “insulting”.  Musk called for an individual-based approach to judgment and said that “we should treat people like individuals and base our opinions on them on their character.” He further argued for maintaining high standards in areas like medicine and aviation, even if it meant less diversity. “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,” the billionaire said. “They’re making mistakes on their exam; they may make mistakes with people, and that may lead to people dying.”

    Moving on, Musk also talked about his usage of ketamine, a medication sometimes used for depression, to manage his “negative chemical state” but denied abusing it. Another noteworthy part of the interview was Musk’s confirmation of a breakfast meeting with U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump. X’s owner denied rumors of Trump asking for campaign donations and said that he is “not donating money to either candidate for US President.” He refrained from supporting either of the candidates but admitted leaning away from endorsing President Joe Biden. “If I do decide to endorse a candidate then I will explain exactly why,” Musk said.

    The interview was not all controversial. It also showcased a clash of egos and journalistic styles. After the interview, Musk pulled the plug on Lemon’s X show, citing a lack of originality compared to CNN, Lemon’s previous employer. “His approach was basically just “CNN, but on social media”, which doesn’t work, as evidenced by the fact that CNN is dying. And, instead of it being the real Don Lemon, it was really just Jeff Zucker talking through Don, so lacked authenticity,” Musk wrote on X following his heated interview with Lemon. “All this said, Lemon/Zucker are of course welcome to build their viewership on this platform along with everyone else,” he added.

    X confirmed the deal cancellation. “We reserve the right to make decisions about our business partnerships, and after careful consideration, X decided not to enter into a commercial partnership with the show,” the company noted.

    Lemon, on the other hand, maintained that the interview was respectful and covered a wide range of topics. “There were no restrictions on the interview that he willingly agreed to, and my questions were respectful and wide ranging, covering everything from SpaceX to the presidential election. We had a good conversation. Clearly he felt differently,” Lemon said in a statement.

    Despite the cancellation of its commercial partnership with X, The Don Lemon Show went live on Monday, March 18, with its first episode airing even on the Musk-owned platform.

    Author

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    Monika Asthana

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