elon musk

11 Weird and Upsetting Facts About Elon Musk

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photo: Getty Images/Shutterstock

Elon Musk is the richest man on the planet, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, and now, the prospective owner of one of the internet’s worst websites. Ever since he moved to acquire Twitter for $44 billion, it seems like nobody, or at least nobody who works in the media, can shut up about the man. (“Whereas the Twitter news cycle used to be determined by Donald Trump’s tweets, it’s now determined by Elon Musk’s,” observed New York Times reporter Katie Rosman.)

Despite the relentless chatter, how well do you really know Mr. Musk? Yes, he’s the electric-car guy, one of several space-bound billionaires, and Twitter’s cringiest and most powerful poster. But there’s so much more. (For example, did you know that he was bullied when he was a child? Now you do!) So buckle up, sweetie, because this not-at-all definitive list of facts about Elon Musk is a wild, weird, upsetting ride.


Musk thinks his father is “evil”

Elon Musk was born in apartheid-era South Africa in 1971, the son of Errol, who at the time was the partial owner of an emerald mine in Zambia. Musk and Errol have had a tumultuous relationship throughout his life — they’re currently estranged — and it’s easy to see why.

“He was such a terrible human being,” Musk told Rolling Stone in 2017, weeping. “My dad will have a carefully thought-out plan of evil. He will plan evil … You have no idea about how bad. Almost every crime you can possibly think of, he has done. Almost every evil thing you could possibly think of, he has done.”


Musk has a point: Errol shot and killed three people and had a baby with his own stepdaughter

Of Errol’s myriad wrongdoings, perhaps the most egregious is that he shot and killed three men who broke into his house. Errol told the Daily Mail that he was tried for manslaughter, pleaded self-defense, and was ultimately acquitted.

Also, in 2018, Errol revealed to the Daily Mail (his publication of choice, apparently) that he had fathered a child with his stepdaughter, Jana Bezuidenhout. According to the Daily Beast, Errol wed Jana’s mother, Heide, when Jana was 3. Errol and Heide were married for 18 years, and Jana and Elon consider each other brother and sister.

Errol conceived the child with Bezuidenhout “in the heat of the moment,” Errol told the Daily Mail. “It happened one evening when Jana’s boyfriend threw her out of the house and she had slept over at my house. You have to understand — I’ve been single for 20 years and I’m just a man who makes mistakes.”


Elon allegedly said some pretty awful things to his first wife

Musk married Justine Wilson in 2000, around the time his online financial-services company X.com merged with another company called Confinity, and ultimately turned into PayPal. Musk and Justine were married for eight years and had six children together.

They didn’t break up on the best of terms, and a couple years after their divorce was finalized, Justine wrote an essay about her marriage to Musk in Marie Claire, headlined, “‘I Was a Starter Wife’: Inside America’s Messiest Divorce,” wherein she shared the following anecdotes:

  • While dancing at their wedding reception, Musk told Justine, “I am the alpha in this relationship.”
  • “Elon’s judgment overruled mine, and he was constantly remarking on the ways he found me lacking,” Justine wrote. “‘I am your wife,’ I told him repeatedly, ‘not your employee.’ To which he would reply, ‘If you were my employee, I would fire you.’”
  • After their first child, Nevada, died of sudden infant death syndrome, Musk allegedly called Justine’s open grieving “emotionally manipulative.” Oof.


Musk then married and divorced his second wife twice

After breaking up with Justine, Musk got together with actress Talulah Riley and proposed to her after spending only ten days together. And Riley and Justine then struck up an unexpected friendship. “Throughout the divorce proceedings, his fiancée and I discovered we liked each other,” Musk’s first wife wrote. A friend of Justine’s observed that their fondness for one another was like “a French movie,” after which Justine wrote the following to Riley in an email: “I would rather live out the French-movie version of things, in which the two women become friends and various philosophies are pondered, than the American version, in which one is ‘good’ and one is ‘bad’ and there’s a huge catfight sequence and someone gets thrown off a balcony.”

Perhaps Justine and Riley’s affinity for one another was an early sign that Riley’s relationship with Musk wouldn’t last. The couple wed in 2010. Two years later, Musk announced the news of their divorce on (you guessed it!) Twitter dot com. Tweeting at Riley, the billionaire wrote, “It was an amazing four years. I will love you forever. You will make someone very happy one day.”

The person Riley would “make very happy one day” turned out to be Musk himself. They remarried in 2013, and ultimately divorced for good in 2016.


Musk has a lot of kids, and he sure gave them some funky names

Most famously, Musk’s son with the indie singer Grimes, born in 2020, is called X Æ A-XII. They named their second child, a girl born in 2021, something slightly less weird: Exa Dark Sideræl. His children with Justine Wilson have comparatively normal names: Griffin, Xavier, Kai, Saxon, and Damian. Still, it’s not like there are any Michaels or Davids in the bunch.


Musk canceled the Tesla order of a venture capitalist who wrote a blog post criticizing him

In 2015, the venture capitalist Stewart Alsop wrote an open letter to Musk on Medium, titled “Dear @ElonMusk: You should be ashamed of yourself,” in which he complained about poor organization at a Tesla Model X launch event. (He said he had to put down a $5,000 deposit on the new car to attend, that the event started nearly two hours late, that the organizers didn’t provide adequate food to the guests, and so on.)

In response to Alsop’s many grievances, the free speech-loving Musk canceled his Model X pre-order. Alsop was beside himself. In a follow-up post, the venture capitalist wrote, “I am a little taken aback to be banned by Tesla … I am mostly sorry not to be able to participate in the automobile revolution that Tesla started.”


Musk loves to guest-star

Be prepared, actors of the world, Elon Musk is coming for your job!

Like many other powerful men, Musk enjoys seeing himself on the big screen. And also on less big screens. Basically any screen. He had two lines in Iron Man 2 (he has been called the “real-life Iron Man” by a handful of simps), and he has voiced himself on The Simpsons and South Park, as well as a character named “Elon Tusk” on his favorite show, Rick & Morty. Musk also played a version of himself who’s magnanimous enough to volunteer at a soup kitchen on an episode of The Big Bang Theory.

Most recently, he hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live, wherein he told the world he had Asperger’s in his opening monologue, dressed up as Wario, made cringey jokes about dogecoin, and went to Mars with the Pete Davidson character Chad.


Musk is opposed to unions

Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, will seemingly do whatever it takes to stop Tesla employees from unionizing.

Per the New York Times, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in 2019 that “Tesla had illegally fired a worker involved in union organizing and that the company’s chief executive, Elon Musk, had illegally threatened workers with the loss of stock options if they unionized.”

Where did Musk threaten employees who wanted to unionize? On Twitter! (“Why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?” he wrote.)


Musk got in trouble with the government for tweeting that he had “secured” funding to take Tesla private at $420 a share

It is a bit silly that Elon Musk decided to buy a website that has gotten him in trouble so many times.

In September 2018, Musk smoked pot while appearing on Joe Rogan’s podcast. It was a 420 kind of year for the middle-aged billionaire; less than two months earlier, he had tweeted, “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.”

Musk’s 420 tweet had serious consequences, since he hadn’t actually secured funding, and lying about things of that nature are big no-no with the SEC. Musk was ousted as Tesla’s chairman and fined $20 million. As part of his settlement with the SEC, Musk had to agree “to have his tweets reviewed by Tesla’s in-house counsel,” an agreement he almost immediately violated.


Musk tweeted that he would donate $6 billion to end world hunger, and then didn’t do that

God, does this man ever log off?

Responding to a screenshot of a CNN headline that read, “2% of Elon Musk’s wealth could help solve world hunger, says director of UN food scarcity organization,” Musk tweeted that if the U.N. World Food Program “can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it.”

WFP director David Beasley called his bluff, and actually outlined how the organization would use the $6.6 billion. Musk, who is worth approximately $239.2 billion, never responded to Beasley. Less than a year later, he bought Twitter for $44 billion, ending world troll hunger instead.


Musk is still being maximum Musk on Twitter

Amid Elon’s very busy first week as king fail whale, he has tweeted all kinds of wacky stuff, like a vow to make Coke truly classic again:

Last weekend, he shared an image of a pot-bellied Bill Gates next to the pregnant-man emoji, captioned “in case u need to lose a boner fast”:

And he’s made a call for Twitter togetherness:

And a call for unbridled joy:

And a screenshot of the top free app downloads in the App Store, where Truth Social (Donald Trump’s quasi-launched, seldom-used new social-media endeavor) tops the list. Musk added the following commentary: “Truth Social is currently beating Twitter & TikTok on the Apple Store,” “Truth Social (terrible name) exists because Twitter censored free speech,” “Should be called Trumpet instead!”

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11 Weird and Upsetting Facts About Elon Musk