Tesla CEO Elon Musk has the ability to control the conversation about him with a single tweet, even when the news is a sticking point about his treatment of employees. That’s why this week he’s managed to turn a story about him having children with a subordinate at one of his companies into one about his strange fixation with declining birth rates.
How did the CEO of such major companies as Tesla and SpaceX respond? “A collapsing birth rate is the biggest danger civilization faces by far.”
On Friday, Musk suddenly announced he wants to give back to employees—well, at least to all those current or expecting parents. He tweeted that he would be increasing childcare benefits at his companies, which include Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, and Boring Company. Details will “hopefully” be announced next month.
The tweet was a response to the thread about his effort to “help the underpopulation crisis.” The world’s richest man (you know, the one who has enough money to actually make a difference in the world) doesn’t think climate change is the biggest threat to civilization, but instead said “a collapsing birth rate” is what will truly bring us down.
And of course, his tweet is short on details about how the Musk Foundation will support these parents. Like several major companies, Tesla has said it would pay travel costs for employees’ out-of-state abortions after the Supreme Court struck down Roe V. Wade. That decision might make things tricky for him since his Texas Tesla hub is right smack dab in the middle of one of the longest ongoing fights over abortion access.
So his fixation about declining birth rates and the utter need to control the narrative seem to go hand in hand, and some are buying into it. Musk is 51 and Zilis is 36, though what may be more at play here is the complicated power discrepancy between a woman, even a top executive, and her boss.
However, speculating about the interpersonal relationship between two grown people won’t get anyone anywhere. If only Musk believed the same. A SpaceX employee and flight attendant on one of Musk’s flights alleged the CEO exposed his penis to her and propositioned her for sex. Musk responded to those allegations with “If I were inclined to engage in sexual harassment, this is unlikely to be the first time in my entire 30-year career that it comes to light.” He later tweeted, “Finally, we get to use Elongate as a scandal name.”
And probably more important is how this reflects on his companies. If Musk says he wants to support those under him, then he should absolutely help parents. That’s what any boss should do. Though he seems to be much more sparing in his aid for his employees in other parts of their jobs. He has utterly rejected calls from employees for a work from home policy, and previous reports have shown his companies have an abnormally high turnover rate. SpaceX employees recently wrote an open letter to company executives saying they disliked how Musk’s public behavior reflected on them and the rest of their company. How did Musk and his executives respond? Space X fired several of them.