Elon Musk, once the darling of the tech world, has found himself at the center of a great deal of social controversy in recent years. After the tech billionaire bought Twitter, now known as X after being rebranded, he began to restructure the company, making some controversial policy choices and centering himself among the far-right Twittersphere.

Decisions Around Twitter

Some of the choices that Elon Musk made with Twitter were made in the name of “free speech absolutism.” He rolled back some of the policy standards regarding hate speech, removed a good deal of the censorship guidelines, and fired a significant number of staff who were hired in order to manage account reports at the company.

Source: Wikimedia/Steve Jurvetson

All in all, nearly every choice that Musk has made has been in pursuit of a less structured, more wild-west style Twitter/X. Twitter has been known as the “town square” of the internet, or the place where most people come to get their news and create the discussions of the day. Musk bought Twitter to allegedly improve that, by removing the “censors” that he believed prevented certain conversations from being heard.

Generating Backlash

The backlash to many of the choices that Musk made with Twitter was swift, and severe. Removing the content guidelines to allow for what many perceive as hate speech caused a mass exodus of advertisers from the platform, a pattern that has continued.

Source: Wikimedia/Justin Pacheco

Choosing to add a subscription level to Twitter was not the most popular decision either, especially when the algorithm changed to clearly favor those who had a subscription, versus those who didn’t. Predictably, a lot of the people who purchased a subscription were Elon Musk supporters, and those in the far-right political sphere of Twitter.

Unbanning Political Figures From Twitter

One of the most significant moves that Musk made with Twitter, though, regarded the people who had previously been permanently banned from the platform. Far-right politicians like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Donald Trump were among these individuals who had their platforms restored, after Musk took over Twitter.

Source: Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore

Understandably, there was some backlash to this decision as well. Many believed that figures like Trump and Greene had been banned from the platform for a good reason, and believed that restoring their accounts would only serve to encourage them in the behavior that got them banned in the first place.

Musk Standing Behind His Choices

Despite the controversy, Musk has stood behind the decisions that he has made with Twitter. He has told advertisers that they’re welcome to leave the platform if they don’t like the direction that he’s taking the company, and promised shareholders that he has long-term plans that will help the platform turn around.

Source: Wikimedia/Maurizio Pesce from Milan, Italia

Through all of these choices, Musk has cultivated a relationship with many individuals on the far-right. He has encouraged anti semitic rhetoric by reposting it on his platform, has promoted conspiracy theories, and has actively pursued the approval of far-right Twitter trolls.

Musk as a Free Speech Absolutist

In spite of this pattern, Musk has continued to sell himself as an independent moderate, and as a free speech absolutist. He claims that the choices that he made with Twitter were in opposition to censorship that he sees on other social media platforms like Tiktok, and that he only wants to make Twitter a viable conversation hub for individuals of all political bends and backgrounds.

Source: Wikimedia/Ministério Das Comunicações

Despite this, he has not hidden his fondness for former President Donald Trump. Beyond restoring Trump’s Twitter platform – though the former President has yet to use said platform – Musk and Trump have danced around each other since Musk acquired Twitter. Trump celebrated the acquisition of the platform, and had previously called Musk a “genius” regarding his leadership of Tesla.

A Meeting Between Musk and Trump

Given their history – both online, and off – it’s not surprising that news has come out about a meeting that was recently held between Elon Musk and Donald Trump. The pair met in early March of this year in Palm Beach, amid speculation that Trump was going to be courting the tech billionaire to support his presidential campaign.

Source: Wikimedia/Ministério Das Comunicações

Trump has found himself at odds with many public figures, given the legal battles that the former president is facing. Many major companies and donors have chosen not to pair themselves with him in a public manner, though he’s still managed to gain the endorsement of a significant number of Republicans in both houses of Congress.

Interviewing with Don Lemon

A recent interview between former CNN anchor Don Lemon and Elon Musk, published on Monday of this week, reveals the details of the meeting between Musk and the former president. A meeting which, Musk insists, was totally unplanned.

Source: YouTube/imreallyimportant

“I was at a breakfast at a friend’s place and Donald Trump came by, that’s it,” Musk said. He added that his unnamed friend only told him that Trump was coming after Musk had already arrived.

Trump Asking for Money?

Musk is one of the wealthiest men in the world, with a current net worth of more than $188 billion. He was the number one wealthiest man in the world until just recently, when Bernard Arnault took over the spot with a net worth of $230 billion.

Source: Wikimedia/Tia Dufour; Official White House Photo

Due to Elon Musk’s vast wealth, there were rumors that Trump approached Musk in pursuit of a financial donation to his presidential campaign. Or, more insidiously, as a sponsor of his legal challenges in various jurisdictions across the United States.

Musk Denies the Claims

Musk denies these claims, though. “I’m not paying his legal bills in any way, shape or form,” he said. “And he did not ask me for money.” This is somewhat reassuring for many Americans, though it’s still concerning that Trump approached Musk, at all.

Source: Wikimedia/Steve Jurvetson

Musk denies that there was any sketchy behavior, though. “Let’s just say he did most of the talking. The normal things he says. There was nothing particularly groundbreaking or new but he, you know, President Trump, likes to talk. And so he talked. I don’t recall him saying anything he hasn’t said publicly. That was it, it was just a breakfast.”

“I’ll Voice my Opinion”

Musk went on to say that he wasn’t planning on endorsing either candidate, or donating to their campaigns in any significant way. “While I’ll voice my opinion, I think I don’t want to put a thumb on the scale monetarily that is significant. I may in the final stretch endorse a candidate, but I don’t know yet.”

Source: Wikimedia/Daniel Oberhaus

He then went on to admit that, while he wasn’t endorsing any candidate in particular, he was “leaning away” from supporting Biden in his reelection campaign. The tech billionaire was quick to state that he had been clear about his opinion of Biden from the beginning and that it wasn’t a secret.

Essentially, An Endorsement for Trump

Lemon, in response, said that he thought that Musk “leaning away” from Biden seemed like an endorsement for Trump, but Musk was quick to contradict the comment. “A lot can happen between now and the election,” he said. 

Source: Wikimedia/Steve Jurvetson from Los Altos

He went on, “At that point, I may or may not endorse one of the candidates. If I do, I will provide a very detailed explanation of why I am endorsing one or the other.” He continued, repeating that even if he did ultimately endorse a candidate, it was going to be unlikely that he financially contributed to either campaign at all. 

Musk Canceling Lemon’s Show

Lemon later revealed that, hours after the interview with Musk took place, Musk canceled a deal that he had reached with Lemon to host a show on X. Lemon is not the only former mainstream anchor to try and take his star to Twitter, but it appears that he won’t be able to reach the same notoriety as, for instance, Tucker Carlson.

Source: Wikimedia/Neon Tommy

While Musk has not commented on the cancelation, it’s believed that the tone of the interview with Lemon is what caused his decision to cancel the partnership. Musk is famous for his temper, and for making business decisions in the heat of an emotional moment, rather than thinking things through. It’s entirely possible that the failed partnership with Don Lemon is a casualty of this tendency.

Musk’s 2024 Intentions

It’s likely that Elon Musk was telling the truth regarding his political intentions. It wouldn’t do for a very public person such as him to get involved with politics in one way or the other, though many would argue that publicizing his opinion in the way that he has is just as influential as a dollar donation.

Source: Wikimedia/Steve Jurvetson

Regardless, it will be fascinating to watch and see whether Musk ultimately endorses any candidate for President. While he has made his preference for Trump over Biden clear in actions, if not in words, it’s possible he could still flip to the other side ahead of the 2024 election. Only time will tell.