5 key moments from Elon Musk’s interview with Don Lemon

Mike Powers
5 key moments from Elon Musk’s interview with Don Lemon

On Monday, Don Lemon released the wide-ranging interview with Elon Musk that prompted the billionaire to cancel X’s deal with the former CNN anchor last week after Musk disliked his lines of inquiry.

Musk, who rarely grants interviews to journalists, sat for an hour-long conversation in which Lemon peppered him with questions about some of his most controversial behavior, from his drug use to his growing political influence to his stance on content moderation. Lemon said Musk called to tell him the deal was off hours after they taped the interview at Tesla’s Austin headquarters earlier this month.

“I challenge you, Elon, to watch the whole interview and tell the world why this isn’t what you claim you want on X,” Lemon said before introducing the interview, which was posted Monday on X and YouTube.

X, the social media platform Musk took over in 2022, did not immediately respond to a request from comment from The Washington Post. But in a post on the platform last week, the company’s corporate account confirmed that it ended the deal with Lemon.

“Like any enterprise, 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 said. In his own post, Musk criticized Lemon’s show, which he said “was basically just ‘CNN, but on social media,’ which doesn’t work, as evidenced by the fact that CNN is dying.”

Here are five takeaways from Lemon’s conversation with Musk.

Musk resists responsibility for hate speech on X

Lemon repeatedly asked Musk whether he bears responsibility for the spread of hate speech or other dangerous content on X, but the tech magnate was dismissive. When Lemon brought up instances of racist and antisemitic content on the platform, Musk argued such posts didn’t violate X’s standards.

“I think we have a responsibility to adhere to the law, Musk said, adding that if a post is illegal, “we’re going to take it down.” To remove posts that didn’t break the law would mean “we’re putting our thumb on the scale or being censors,” he argued.

When Lemon questioned whether X has become a breeding ground for conservative conspiracy theories, Musk responded that “old Twitter was fundamentally a tool of the far left.” But when it came to questions about his own posts — which have recently tilted to the right — Musk said that he often reposts things he doesn’t entirely agree with but thinks “that people should consider.”

Musk suffers from depressive episodes

Asked about his drug use, Musk acknowledged that he has a prescription for the dissociative anesthetic ketamine to “treat a negative chemical state in my brain, like depression” that affects him intermittently.

Musk denied abusing the drug, saying it does not affect what he decides to post on his social media platform, which has repeatedly landed the billionaire and his companies in hot water. He said he takes “a small amount once every other week, or something like that.”

“If you use too much ketamine, you can’t really get work done,” Musk said. “I have a lot of work.”

Musk’s alleged drug use has been a point of concern for investors, but in the interview, he suggested it’s been ultimately beneficial to the company’s bottom line.

“From a standpoint of Wall Street, what matters is execution,” Musk said, adding that “for investors’ standpoint, if there is something I’m taking, I should keep taking it.”

Musk described his meeting with Donald Trump

When Lemon asked about Musk’s recently reported encounter with Donald Trump, Musk said that it happened by chance while he was having breakfast at friend’s home in Florida. (The New York Times reported that wealthy Republican donors were among other attendees.) When Lemon pressed for details about what was discussed, Musk seemed flustered and waited a few moments to respond. “Let’s just say, he did most of the talking,” Musk said.

He declined to specify what they spoke about, except to deny that Trump asked him to contribute to his presidential campaign or to help pay his legal bills. Musk said that he does not plan to donate to any candidate’s campaign.

“I don’t want to a thumb on the scale monetarily,” Musk said.

Musk did not rule out the possibility of endorsing a presidential candidate, adding that he is “leaning away from Biden.”

America needs to ‘move on’ from racism, Musk says

In response to questions about his resistance to diversity, equity and inclusion policies (which Musk has decried as racist), Musk argued that the country should “move on” and not make racism “a constant subject.”

Of late, Musk has been retweeting posts that promote misinformation about the intelligence of racial minorities, Mother Jones has reported. He’s also been posting frequently about the Biden administration’s immigration polices, repeatedly claiming Democrats want to maximize the number of illegal immigrants in the country to help win the election.

“We are all descended from slaves,” Musk said during the interview with Lemon.

“Well, not everyone was a slave,” Lemon corrected, adding that it was “insulting” for Musk suggest that people who experienced racism or discrimination should “just move forward and ignore the past.”

Musk rejects the idea that the ‘buck stops’ with him

The most tense exchange in the interview arose when Lemon brought up Musk’s previous statement that X advertisers could “kill” the platform with a boycott. (Several advertisers left the platform over concerns their ads were appearing alongside antisemitic content and other hate speech.)

When Lemon suggested that the companies’ suspension of their advertising was a form of free speech, and that Musk might bear responsibility if X fails, he grew frustrated.

“You said, ‘If they kill the company, it’s them,’ but doesn’t the buck stop with you?” Lemon asked.

“Don, I have to say, choose your questions carefully,” he responded. “There’s five minutes left.”

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