Elon Musk tearfully claims Tesla can't review his tweets in bizarre interview

'Look at you', interviewer says as entrepreneur struggles to retain composure

Harry Cockburn
Monday 10 December 2018 12:54
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Elon Musk says Tesla can't review tweets 'because of the First Amendment'

Tesla’s Elon Musk has tearfully claimed in a US television interview the company does not review his tweets before he sends them, citing freedom of speech laws.

If it is the case, then he risks being in contravention of a legal settlement requiring the company to oversee his communications.

The outspoken entrepreneur was sued in September this year after he said in a tweet he had secured funding to take the company private at $420 a share.

The tweet caused Tesla’s stock price to jump by over six percent and led to what the US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) described as “significant market disruption”.

Mr Musk’s settlement with the agency saw him and Tesla each fined $20m, he was ordered to step down as chairman for three years, and the company was told it must introduce “additional controls and procedures to oversee Musk's communications", including his use of Twitter. The terms of the agreement must be met by 28 December.

But on CBS News’ 60 Minutes programme, Mr Musk was asked: “Does someone have to read them before they go out?” He replied “No.”

“So your tweets are not supervised?” interviewer Lesley Stahl asked.

“The only tweets that would need to be, say, ‘reviewed’, would be if a tweet had a probability of causing a movement in the stock.”

“And that’s it?” Stahl asked.

“Yeah, I mean, otherwise it’s ‘Hello first amendment’, like freedom of speech is fundamental,” Mr Musk replied.

“But how do they know if it’s going to move the market if they’re not reading all of them before you send them?” Stahl asked.

“Well I guess we might make some mistakes, who knows?” Mr Musk replied.

“Are you serious?” Stahl responded.

“Nobody’s perfect,” said Mr Musk before looking away from Stahl and the cameras, and appeared to be fighting back tears.

His emotional response did not go unnoticed by Stahl who then said: “Look at you.”

Mr Musk quickly moved on to say he did not respect the SEC, but said he was abiding by the settlement because he did respect the justice system.

'Nobody's perfect', Elon Musk tells 60 Minutes host Lesley Stahl

The SEC’s legal filing in September also alluded to marijuana culture being a component in Mr Musk’s tweet saying he would take the firm private at $420 a share.

In the US the number 420 is synonymous with marijuana consumption, and April 20 each year has become a celebrated date among smokers of the drug.

“Musk stated that he rounded the price up to $420 because he had recently learned about the number's significance in marijuana culture and thought his girlfriend 'would find it funny, which admittedly is not a great reason to pick a price,’” the SEC filing reads.

Later this year Mr Musk appeared on a live web show during which he was filmed smoking a spliff with the host, which caused Tesla’s share price to fall.

During the 60 Minutes interview, when quizzed on the subject Mr Musk said: “As anybody who watched that podcast could tell, I have no idea how to smoke pot, or anything. I don’t know how to smoke anything, honestly.”

Asked if his behaviour was erratic, or operatic, Mr Musk said: “I'm just being me. I mean, I was certainly under insane stress and crazy, crazy hours. But the system would have failed if I was truly erratic.”

He also said the company would consider taking over factories General Motors have said they intend to leave idle.

A Tesla spokesperson told The Independent the SEC settlement is being complied with, including having a policy in place by December 28th for the pre-approval of Mr Musk’s communications which could contain material information.

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