“Something extremely bogus is going on,” Elon Musk tweeted on Nov. 13. It’s been a busy month, and you could be forgiven if you forgot about the Tesla founder’s confusing tweet in which he said that his rapid antigen test had come back positive and negative. It appeared that Musk may have covid-19, but then we didn’t hear anything further on the matter. On Wednesday, Musk said that he has, in fact, already had the infectious disease.
Musk’s comment came during the Axel Springer Award ceremony in Berlin where he was being presented with an annual prize given to “outstanding personalities” who are “particularly innovative,” and “at the same time face up to their responsibility to society.” Following a Q&A with Musk, Berlin’s Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn heaped praise on the billionaire but also seemed to be a bit uncomfortable with some of Musk’s efforts to downplay the seriousness of the virus, which has killed more than 271,000 people in the U.S. and nearly 1.5 million globally.
After reflecting on the surge of hope that has come with significant scientific progress on vaccines, Spahn lamented the fact that many people are rejecting the possibility of ever taking any of them. “Vaccination is progress,” Spahn said. “And today that word progress is for many synonymous with one name, that of Elon Musk.”
Spahn proceeded to pad out his comments with another round of listing Musk’s accomplishments and he expressed optimism for the future of the German people working with Tesla at its new Gigafactory outside Berlin.
The health minister seemed to have something on his mind he was building to, as he segued from flattery saying, “However, I have read that Elon Musk himself does not intend to get vaccinated...” before he was cut off. From the audience, Musk interrupted to say, “Well, I’ve already had covid.”
The interjection seemed to throw Spahn off, but he got back on track with some rambling comments about the need to find the right balance between the needs of industry and public health in the midst of a rare global pandemic. He insisted that Musk’s work in science, tech, education, and charitable giving has been good for humanity, and “it would be highly unfair to imply that Elon Musk might care too little.”
Musk seemed uncomfortable with the whole speech. The Tesla CEO has been outspoken in his disdain for anyone who would try to allow the pandemic to get in between him and his billions. He wrongly predicted that the coronavirus would be a thing of the past by April, has belligerently opposed lockdowns, and defied authorities’ orders to close his Tesla plant. For his unhelpful and borderline criminal actions, Musk has been rewarded with an extra $100 billion and was just named Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year.
Tesla did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for confirmation of Musk’s positive covid diagnosis. We imagine all the people in the theater at the Axel Springer Awards would like to know when Musk last tested negative.
Correction: A previous version of this post stated that Musk was awarded Forbes’ Businessperson of the Year. Musk was named Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year. We regret the error.