- Elon Musk is one of the most outspoken leaders in tech.
- The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX has inspired intense devotion and attracted controversy as a result of his public statements.
- But he’s also landed himself in hot water, like when he called a British cave diver a “pedo guy” or said he had the funding secured to take Tesla private at $420 per share.
- Musk hasn’t shied away from sharing his more off-the-wall ideas, like the concept that humans are living in a simulation or the theory that we should nuke Mars to warm the planet.
- Most recently, he tweeted that the pyramids in Egypt were built by aliens.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Most CEOs tend to choose their words carefully, fearing the consequences of saying anything that could be deemed controversial. For better and for worse, Elon Musk is more outspoken.
The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX is sometimes shockingly blunt, like when he mocks his critics or opens up about his personal life. Musk’s candor has endeared him to the fans and customers who find him more relatable than other famous executives, while also frustrating some analysts and investors who argue that he is temperamental and reckless.
Below are 39 quotes that illustrate why Musk attracts so much attention.
In 2015, Musk said on Twitter that it was strange humans have yet to see evidence of aliens. “Seems like an opportune moment to bring up the Fermi Paradox, aka ‘where are the aliens?’ Really odd that we see no sign of them.”
He later said Egyptian pyramids were not evidence of aliens visiting Earth.
“Btw, please don’t mention the pyramids. Stacking stone blocks is not evidence of an advanced civilization,” he said. “The ancient Egyptians were amazing, but if aliens built the pyramids, they would’ve left behind a computer or something.”
Five years later, Musk seems to have changed his stance on aliens. “Aliens built the pyramids obv,” he tweeted in July 2020.
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His tweet stating that aliens “obv” built the pyramids prompted Egypt’s minister of international cooperation, Rania al-Mashat, to invite Musk to Egypt to see them for himself.
“I invite you & Space X to explore the writings about how the pyramids were built and also to check out the tombs of the pyramid builders,” al-Mashat tweeted.
Zahi Hawass, an Egyptian archaeologist, also weighed in.
“I found the tombs of the pyramid builders that tell everyone that the builders of the pyramids are Egyptians and they were not slaves,” Hawass said, according to EgyptToday.
“If there was a way that I could not eat, so I could work more, I would not eat. I wish there was a way to get nutrients without sitting down for a meal,” Musk once said, according to his biographer, Ashlee Vance.
In Vance’s 2015 biography of Musk,”Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” Christie Nicholson, who met Musk in college, said Musk told her he wished he didn’t have to eat so he could carve out more time for work.
This Musk quote on failure is also from Vance’s book: “My mentality is that of a samurai. I would rather commit seppuku than fail.”
When Tesla employees complained about their jobs, Musk reportedly said: “I would tell those people they will get to see their families a lot when we go bankrupt.”
Former Tesla employee Ryan Popple told Vance that Musk said this during Tesla’s early years after an employee said their jobs were too demanding.
Musk once told Vance that SpaceX is battling other countries for space supremacy. “My family fears that the Russians will assassinate me,” he said.
Musk told Vance that his rocket-building and space exploration company, SpaceX, had created enemies that may wish him harm.
“The list of people that would not mind if I were gone is growing,” he said.
Musk once expressed frustration over Ford trademarking a vehicle name he’d planned to use at Tesla. “Like why did you go steal Tesla’s E? Like you’re some sort of fascist army marching across the alphabet, some sort of Sesame Street robber?” he said.
Musk told Vance he wanted to name a Tesla vehicle the “Model E,” but said Ford trademarked the name and wouldn’t allow Tesla to use it.
Musk’s insistence on using the name came from his desire for the model names of Tesla’s first four vehicles to spell “SEXY.”
Musk has publicly lamented his dating life in the past: “I would like to allocate more time to dating, though. I need to find a girlfriend. That’s why I need to carve out just a little more time. I think maybe even another five to 10 — how much time does a woman want a week? Maybe 10 hours? That’s kind of the minimum? I don’t know.”
Musk told Vance he wanted to dedicate more time to dating and wondered how much time a relationship would require.
He’s also argued that human beings most likely exist in a video game. “There’s a billion-to-one chance we’re living in base reality,” Musk said in 2016.
In 2016, during Vox Media’s Code Conference, he said the current rate of innovation in video game development makes it likely that we will eventually make video games that are indistinguishable from reality. At some point in the future, the quantity and quality of hyper-realistic video games means there could be billions of simulations of human reality, which means it’s unlikely that we’ll be the first ones to create those games, rather than living inside one of the games, he said.
“We’re clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality, and those games could be played on any set-top box or a PC and there would probably be billions of such computers and set-top boxes, it would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in base reality is one in billions,” Musk said.
“I’m not an alien … but I used to be one,” Musk said on Twitter in 2016.
Source: Elon Musk/Twitter
“You’re an idiot,” Musk once tweeted at a public transportation consultant who called him privileged.
In 2017, Wired reported that Musk criticized public transportation at a tech conference.
“I think public transport is painful,” he reportedly said. “It sucks. Why do you want to get on something with a lot of other people, that doesn’t leave where you want it to leave, doesn’t start where you want it to start, doesn’t end where you want it to end?”
Public transit consultant Jarrett Walker tweeted a response, saying Elon Musk’s “hatred of sharing space with strangers is a luxury (or pathology) that only the rich can afford.”
“You’re an idiot,” Musk replied.
Musk has joked about Tesla’s financial health on Twitter: “Despite intense efforts to raise money, including a last-ditch mass sale of Easter Eggs, we are sad to report that Tesla has gone completely and totally bankrupt. So bankrupt, you can’t believe it.”
Musk poked fun at questions about Tesla’s financial health in a 2018 April Fools’ Day Twitter thread written in the style of a newspaper story.
“Tesla Goes Bankrupt Palo Alto, California, April 1, 2018 — Despite intense efforts to raise money, including a last-ditch mass sale of Easter Eggs, we are sad to report that Tesla has gone completely and totally bankrupt. So bankrupt, you can’t believe it,” Musk wrote.
Musk’s response didn’t please investors and analysts, who were concerned about Musk’s attitude toward criticism directed at Tesla.
Musk has said that he has concerns about artificial intelligence: “At least when there’s an evil dictator, that human is going to die. But for an AI, there will be no death — it would live forever. And then you would have an immortal dictator from which we could never escape.”
In the 2018 documentary, “Do You Trust This Computer?,” Musk said if a company or group of people created “god-like superintelligence,” the AI could exert control over humans for eternity.
“Oh btw I’m building a cyborg dragon,” Musk tweeted in 2018.
“Boring bonehead questions are not cool … These questions are so dry. They’re killing me,” Musk once said in response to analyst questions.
Musk rejected questions from two Wall Street analysts during the company’s unusual first-quarter earnings call in 2018.
“Excuse me. Next. Boring bonehead questions are not cool,” Musk said after Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Antonio Sacconaghi asked about Tesla’s future capital requirements.
The next question came from RBC Capital Markets analyst Joseph Spak, who asked about Model 3 reservations.
“These questions are so dry. They’re killing me,” Musk said, before turning to Galileo Russell, a retail investor who runs a YouTube channel about Tesla. Russell was allowed to ask several questions about a range of subjects, none of which concerned Tesla’s financial health.
Tesla’s stock dropped 8% in after-hours trading after the call.
“Oh and uh short burn of the century comin soon. Flamethrowers should arrive just in time,” a reference to Musk’s well-known contempt of short-sellers.
Musk has been vocal about his disdain for short-sellers, who place bets that a company’s stock price will fall.
In 2018, Musk said on Twitter the “short burn of the century” would arrive soon and made reference to the branded flamethrowers sold by his tunnel-digging company, The Boring Company.
“Going to create a site where the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score over time of each journalist, editor & publication. Thinking of calling it Pravda …,” Musk said in 2018.
In a series of Twitter posts, Musk described the media as being hypocritical, impulsive, sensitive, unreliable, and ethically compromised.
“They have about three weeks before their short position explodes,” Musk said of short-sellers in 2018.
“You’re a horrible human being,” Musk once wrote to a Tesla whistleblower.
Former Tesla employee Martin Tripp filed a whistle-blowing tip with the SEC in 2018. Tripp claimed that Tesla used batteries with puncture holes in vehicles meant for consumers, among other claims, and, in his tip with the SEC claims the company over-reported production of its Model 3 sedan by up to 44%, according to Tripp’s former attorney, Stuart Meissner.
Emails sent to Business Insider revealed that Musk called Tripp “a horrible human being” via email in June. That month, Tesla filed a lawsuit against Tripp, alleging that he hacked confidential company information and gave it to parties outside the company.
Musk made a dig at Ford while discussing Tesla’s Model 3 production: “I think there’s a good vibe — I think the energy is good; go to Ford, it looks like a morgue.”
During a 2018 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Musk discussed Tesla’s efforts to reach its goal of making 5,000 Model 3 sedans per week by the end of June. Musk said he felt good about the “vibe” and “energy” at Tesla and compared the company to Ford.
“Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it,” Musk tweeted at a British diver involved in the Thai cave rescue.
In 2018, Musk called Vernon Unsworth a “pedo guy” in a tweet and said he would bet money to back his accusation after Unsworth said the miniature submarine Musk designed and sent to Thailand to help with the rescue would have been ineffective and was merely a publicity stunt.
The insult was was widely interpreted as Musk suggesting the diver was a pedophile. Musk later apologized to Unsworth and deleted the tweet, but Unsworth sued him for defamation. A jury ruled in 2019 that Musk was not guilty.
“I suggest that you call people you know in Thailand, find out what’s actually going on and stop defending child rapists, you f—— a——,” Musk said to a reporter soon after.
“Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured,” Musk infamously tweeted in 2018.
Musk tweeted this on August 7, 2018. The tweet led to a lawsuit from the SEC which resulted in a settlement requiring Musk to pay a $20 million fine and step down as the chairman of Tesla’s board of directors for three years, among other provisions.
“Investor support is confirmed. Only reason why this is not certain is that it’s contingent on a shareholder vote,” Musk claimed soon after.
During a 2018 interview with The New York Times, Musk said he didn’t regret his “funding secured” tweet. “Why would I?” he said.
Source: The New York Times
“If the odds are probably in your favor, you should make as many decisions as possible within the bounds of what is executable,” Musk said in regard to taking Tesla private.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal published in 2018, Musk explained his decision to tweet that he had secured funding for a go-private deal by saying it makes sense to act when the odds appear to be favorable.
“This is like being the house in Vegas,” Musk said. “Probability is the most powerful force in the universe, which is why the house always wins. Be the house.”
Musk later appeared to mock the SEC in a tweet: “Just want to that the Shortseller Enrichment Commission is doing incredible work. And the name change is so on point!”
Musk seemed to take aim at the SEC in a tweet on October 4, 2018, just four days after he reached a settlement with the government agency.
Musk has even said he’d step down as Tesla CEO: “If you have anyone who can do a better job, please let me know. They can have the job. Is there someone who can do the job better? They can have the reins right now.”
“So in desperation, we are going to build a tunnel, and maybe that tunnel will be successful. And maybe it won’t,” Musk said, lamenting the traffic situation in Los Angeles.
“I’m not saying it’s going to be successful,” he said. “It’s not, like, asserting it’s going to be successful. But so far I’ve lived in LA for 16 years and the traffic has always been terrible. And so I don’t see any other ideas for improving the traffic.”
Musk has also opined on the affect of smartphones: “You’re already a cyborg. Most people don’t realize you’re already a cyborg.”
During his interview with Rogan, Musk said mobile phones essentially turn humans into cyborgs due to the amount of information they allow users to access.
“I’m getting text messages from friends saying, ‘What the hell are you doing smoking weed?'” Musk said after appearing on Rogan’s podcast.
Musk was filmed smoking marijuana during his interview with Rogan. (Recreational use of Marijuana is legal in California, where the interview was filmed.)
After doing so, Musk said he received texts from friends questioning his judgment.
“Worth it,” Musk tweeted in 2018 in response to a Twitter user who mentioned the $20 million fine that resulted from Musk’s “funding secured” tweet.
“How about that one that cost you 20M, how was the ‘like’ ration on that one,” the Twitter user said.
“Worth it,” Musk replied.
“I want to be clear: I do not respect the SEC, I do not respect them,” Musk said during an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired in 2018.
Source: 60 Minutes
“It’s not realistic in the sense that I am the largest shareholder in the company and I can just call for a shareholder vote and get anything done that I want,” Musk said on “60 Minutes.”
CBS News reporter Lesley Stahl has asked him about the impression that the new chairman of Tesla’s board of directors, Robyn Denholm, had been appointed as something of a “babysitter” for Musk.
Musk later referred to a clip including the quote as a “very misleading edit,” and said “60 Minutes” had cut the end of his sentence, which Musk said was, “provided I have the support of shareholders.”
Musk has discussed his combative tweets toward critics and journalists: “Twitter is a war zone. If somebody’s going to jump in the war zone, it’s like, okay, you’re in the arena. Let’s go.”
Source: 60 Minutes
“A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain, just FYI,” he said during a presentation for his neurotechnology company, Neuralink.
Musk said the company has tested a brain chip on monkeys, but did not specify what the test entailed.
“Nuke Mars!” Musk tweeted last year.
The tweet repeated a sentiment he expressed on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” in 2015. At the time, Musk said hitting Mars with thermonuclear weapons could warm the planet.
During a recent Tesla earnings call, Musk criticized the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak: “Give people back their goddamn freedom.”
After Tesla posted surprise first-quarter profit earlier this year, Musk said during a conference call with analysts that Tesla’s forced factory shutdowns were a “serious risk” to its business.
Musk said that while Tesla would weather the storm, other businesses would not, and that the shutdown was undemocratic.
“If somebody wants to stay in their house, that’s great and they should be able to,” he said. “But to say they cannot leave their house and that they will be arrested if they do, that’s fascist. That is not democratic – this is not freedom. Give people back their goddamn freedom.”
“Frankly, I would call it forcible imprisoning of people in their homes against all of, their constitutional rights, in my opinion,” Musk also said during the earnings call.
In an expletive-laden rant, Musk doubled down on tweets he had posted that called for giving people their freedom back, and “FREE AMERICA NOW.”
“It’s breaking people’s freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong and not why they came to America or built this country,” Musk said on the conference call. “What the f—. Excuse me. Outrage. Outrage.”