My overnight dump of emails includes the DealBook newsletter with Andrew Ross Sorkin put out by the New York Times. I’ve soured on the Times and don’t trust most of its reporting, so I normally delete the email with nary a glance. But this morning’s headline caught my eye: “Complications from the Twitter deal?”
Here are the newsletter’s breathless opening paragraphs:
The news site Insider dropped a set of explosive allegations about Elon Musk last night. It reported that a former flight attendant on a SpaceX corporate jet accused Musk of exposing himself and asking for a sexual favor. Insider cited interviews and document it had obtained to back up its reporting. (The New York Times has not independently confirmed the reporting.)
SpaceX reportedly paid the flight attendant $250,000 to settle a sexual misconduct claim against Musk in 2018. According to a declaration by a friend of the flight attendant seen by Insider, the flight attendant said Musk asked her to come to a private room during a 2016 flight and give him a massage, which was part of her regular duties. The attendant found that he was “naked except for a sheet covering the lower half of his body,” and he offered to buy her a horse if she would “do more,” the friend said in the declaration, according to Insider.
Musk has denied the allegations and challenged his unidentified accuser to verify her claims by describing a part of his anatomy “not known by the public.” That’s why I believe the allegations. If they were false, Musk would have a mighty defamation claim that could cripple the click-bait publication and possibly put it out of business. Peter Thiel, Musk’s former PayPal colleague, could refer him to a good lawyer who knows how to get the job done.
While the Musk allegations may be true, it’s despicable that legacy media picked up the dubiously sourced story, particularly since it was reported by Insider, an sensationalist tabloid owned by a German digital publishing house that’s not ready for prime time.
‘I heard this from a friend’
Insider’s story is largely based on claims made by a “friend” of the flight attendant who alleged Musk exposed himself while giving him a massage, so Insider’s source has no first-hand knowledge as to all that might have transpired. That the flight attendant settled for a $250,000 severance agreement suggests she didn’t have much of a case or she hired an incompetent lawyer. The severance was a paltry amount for such an egregious sexual harassment claim. Companies sometimes settle cases because it’s cheaper than the cost to litigate them.
Some of Insider’s reporting is too pathetic to take seriously. That the flight attendant found Musk “naked except for a sheet covering the lower half of his body,” is exactly how I’d expect a massage therapist to find him. The alleged incident happened six years ago, yet the unidentified friend is only now sufficiently troubled to come forward, ostensibly to protect other women.
The friend acted on her own in talking to Insider and admitted she doesn’t know if the flight attendant supports her going to the media. “I hope (the aggrieved flight attendant) feels like I did the right thing,” the friend said.
The legacy media has a double standard on sexual behavior. A man who masturbated on a company Zoom call in my mind engaged in worse behavior than Musk allegedly did, but CNN felt it deserved a pass. To the legacy media, an exposed penis is seemingly more of an issue if it’s attached to a Republican, which Musk stupidly admitted is how he plans to vote.
Racism at the Tesla plant
Regardless, even if one disagrees with my assessment of the Insider story, I’d be surprised if anyone would publicly want to argue that the Insider allegations against Musk come anywhere near the wrongdoing alleged in a February complaint by California’s civil rights regulator suing Tesla for widespread harassment of Black workers at the electric car-maker’s factory near San Francisco. The complaint’s allegations were so damning that the Los Angeles Times initially posted an advisory note warning its readers of disturbing content.
As reported by the Times, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing received complaints from hundreds of workers and “found evidence that Tesla’s Freemont factory is a racially segregated workplace where Black workers are subjected to racial slurs and discriminated against in job assignments, discipline, pay and promotion creating a hostile work environment.”
From the Times:
The DFEH alleged one Black worker told of hearing racial slurs as often as 50 to 100 times a day. Some who complained about the offensive language said supervisors and managers were active participants in the abuse or witnesses to it. On a daily basis, Black workers saw racist graffiti on restroom walls, lockers, benches, workstations, lunch tables and the break room.
Last October, a former Black contractor for Tesla was awarded $137 million by a federal jury who heard first-hand allegations of pervasive racism at Tesla’s Freemont plant. It’s been well reported that Musk remained at the Freemont plant 24/7, even sleeping under his desk. Presumably he saw all the alleged racist graffiti.
The racist claims filed by California’s civil rights regulator didn’t get much media pickup, and I don’t recall any stories saying the allegations would have any meaningful impact on Musk or Tesla’s operations. According to Ross Sorkin’s newsletter, Insider’s story could “complicate” Musk’s efforts to finance his takeover of Twitter.
“Musk has been in talks with additional investors, but the sexual harassment claim could turn some away,” the Times reported. “It is also likely to cause unrest among Twitter employees, particularly given that Musk has told investors he will be interim CEO after the deal closes.”
Hundreds of documented first-hand incidents of racism involving Tesla’s Black workers didn’t trouble America’s financiers or Twitter employees but the possibility that Musk might have exposed himself during a massage is cause for grave concern.
The Tesla plant workers were blue collar employees, a class of people the legacy media’s mostly elitist journalists can’t relate to. They can more easily identify with an aggrieved white woman possibly earning $125,000 a year or more. I’m confident in surmising the flight attendant is white because if she was Black, Insider no doubt would have portrayed Musk’s alleged exposure as both sexual harassment and racism.
Ross Sorkin’s newsletter also said that Tesla’s nondisclosure agreements, which are no longer allowed in California, “is at odds with Musk’s professed commitment to free speech.”
Employees aren’t forced to sign nondisclosure agreements. They agree to them because companies will pay considerably more for their silence. It isn’t a free speech issue but rather about selling one’s soul for a bigger payout.
That Musk isn’t a “free speech” absolutist as he claims was revealed by Bloomberg, which reported last December that Tesla asked the company’s Communist government handlers in China to use its censorship powers to silence critics of the electric car company. That shows where Musk really stands on free speech, yet the legacy media ignored the story.
Musk brought all this controversy on himself with all his antics and need for public attention. He could have gone through life being idolized for his genius and his impressive accomplishments. The legacy media is out to get him, and the Insider hit job is just the beginning. In doing so, the legacy media will continue exposing its hypocrisy and its own white privilege bias.