Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk Can't Handle the Truth

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk at the wheel of a Tesla Roadster

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk at the wheel of a Tesla Roadster

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Elon Musk, the CEO of electric-car startup Tesla Motors and rocket-launcher SpaceX, should be applauded for the mighty challenges he’s taken on and the powers of persuasion he has deployed to build his companies. But along the way, he discovered that he could stretch the truth, casually and frequently, as a shortcut to getting things done.

Clad in a sheen of bubbly optimism, his mendacity nonetheless has consequences. Through Tesla’s IPO, he has now taken hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers and public investors who expect not just a return but square dealing from the man who is managing their company for them.

So where has Musk spun the facts?

Critical reporting

Well, let’s go with the most recent one: He’s lied about me, and VentureBeat, apparently in retaliation for our aggressive and accurate reporting.

In an article published by the Huffington Post, he calls me “Silicon Valley’s Jayson Blair.” He accused me of making errors, but never once specified them. Here’s the truth: I cited Musk’s own words from court filings, which we had paid a freelance reporter to find and copy, legally, from a courthouse in Van Nuys, Calif. I also interviewed a host of other sources. I emailed Musk questions and called his lawyer repeatedly before publishing. We went to extra lengths to nail down the facts: Before publishing, VentureBeat editor-in-chief Matt Marshall called Musk and had interviews with at least three Tesla board members.

We make no apologies for seeking the truth about Tesla Motors and Elon Musk, a vital company and an iconic entrepreneur of Silicon Valley. Our reporting (here’s one example of our series) helped investors get a more truthful picture of a company that was going public and the man behind it.

Musk also accused me of “collaborating” with the lawyer representing Justine Musk, his ex-wife, in their divorce case. Also false: I picked up the phone and called her lawyer, and he had the courtesy to answer my questions.

Now, we should all be used to Musk insulting journalists who don’t report what they’re told to. But calling someone a “Jayson Blair” is a troubling assertion to anyone who prefers his insults to have a factual basis.

When I ran fact-checking at Business 2.0 magazine, here’s what I would have asked the writer to prove before I’d let him get away with that kind of factual assertion: So, you want to compare this Owen Thomas person to one of journalism’s most infamous miscreants. Is Owen Thomas a drug addict? Is Owen Thomas mentally unstable? Has Owen Thomas plagiarized or invented facts? The answer to all of those, in case you were curious, is no.

And so out comes the chief of reporters’ red pen.

The one specific claim Musk made about my reputation was that I had written that he was broke. Not true. If you review the story I reported on his personal finances and their impact on Tesla, you’ll see I merely quoted Musk’s own words from his divorce filing, in which he said that he “ran out of cash.”

When VentureBeat first started raising questions about Musk’s personal finances, his expensive divorce case, and the impact they might have on Tesla’s IPO, a Tesla spokesman initially said that the company had no plans to update its IPO prospectus to reflect our reporting. However, in the end, Tesla updated its SEC filings to acknowledge substantially all of the concerns we raised as potential risk factors investors should consider.

That is the ultimate correction of the record, and it stands today.

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Comments (8)
  1. Its time for Tesla to appoint a new CEO. Tesla Motors has put together thee best electric car startup and the best electric car produced to date. Elon Musk looks at this time to be a threat to Tesla's future not an asset, they may need to look at getting rid of him for the sake of Tesla's health and a successful future.

  2. All of this negativity prompts me ta ask a routine Tesla all-electric car question. What kind of range does the Tesla sedan have? Is it really about 200 miles before the need for a re-charge?

  3. @Bryan - It's hard to say what range the Model S has, as the car hasn't been put on sale, and only a handful of prototypes exist.

  4. I read earlier today that the Model S has a range of 300 miles. I'd like some writers to verify that one Saturday afternoon with a test drive.

  5. Is it the official position of this blog that "Elon Musk can't handle the truth" or should the article title be prefaced with "Opinion: " or something of that nature? You may think I'm being picky here but all credible news sites that I follow clearly label opinion pieces so the news brand doesn't come across as being biased.

  6. Elon dared to cross you, humble reporter!? How dare he! Drag him through the mud and slap him senseless from the soapbox you've been given! He should know better than to ever disagree with your giant ego.

  7. Elon!? Is that you? Welcome to Greenbeat and thanks for stopping by!!

  8. You welcome to disagree, but this article reads like a hatchet job by a a very big and wounded ego.

Commenting is closed for old articles.

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