Elon Musk and Donald Trump’s rollercoaster relationship, explained: the former US president and world’s richest man go from besties to beefing, and own rival social platforms Twitter and Truth Social
Billionaire businessmen Elon Musk and Donald Trump have had a tumultuous relationship over the years. In July 2022, Musk said Trump should “sail away into the sunset”, while Trump called Musk a “bulls*** artist”.
Musk has said he’d reverse Trump’s ban, but Trump does not seem eager to direct focus away from his own social media start-up, Truth Social. And besides, although the two businessmen share a disdain for the left and a tendency toward online bluster, their relationship has not exactly been smooth-sailing over the years.
Here’s a timeline of their rocky relationship.
November 2016: Musk says Trump is ‘not the right guy’ for the job
Just before the 2016 presidential election, Musk told CNBC he did not think Trump should be president.
“I feel a bit stronger that he is not the right guy. He does not seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States,” Musk said.
The billionaire added that Hillary Clinton’s economic and environmental policies were the “right ones”.
December 2016: Musk appointed to Trump’s advisory councils
After he won the presidency though, Trump actually appointed Musk to two economic advisory councils, along with other business leaders like Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.
A post from Musk’s Twitter account (@elonmusk) published on February 3, 2017 shows his response to the appointment. He defended his choice of working with the controversial president by saying he was using the position to lobby for better environmental and immigration policies.
June 2017: Musk cut ties with the White House in protest of Trump’s environmental policies
On June 1, 2017, after Trump announced the US would pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, Musk resigned from his roles on presidential advisory boards.
Musk’s goal for Tesla is to curb dependence on fossil fuels through electric vehicles, solar power and stationary energy storage.
January 2020: ‘One of our great geniuses’
During a January 2020 interview with CNBC, Trump praised Musk’s accomplishments and intelligence.
“You have to give him credit,” the former president said, referring to Tesla becoming more valuable than Ford and General Motors. “He’s also doing the rockets. He likes rockets. And he is doing good at rockets too, by the way.”
Trump went on to call Musk “one of our great geniuses” and likened him to Thomas Edison.
May 2020: Trump backs up Musk in feud with California’s Covid-19 rules
As the pandemic gripped the US in early 2020, Musk clashed with California public-health officials who forced Tesla to temporarily shut down its factory there. Trump voiced his support for Musk.
“California should let Tesla and @elonmusk open the plant, now,” Trump tweeted in May 2020. “It can be done fast and safely!”
“Thank you!” Musk replied.
May 2022: Musk said he would reinstate Trump’s Twitter account
In May 2022, Musk said he would unban Trump as the Twitter’s new owner.
Musk called the ban a “morally bad decision” and “foolish to the extreme” in an interview with the Financial Times. Twitter kicked Trump off of its platform following the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
The Tesla billionaire has called himself a “free speech absolutist,” and one of his key goals for taking Twitter private was to loosen content moderation.
July 2022: Trump calls Musk a ‘bulls*** artist’
In July, Trump took aim at Musk, claiming the businessman voted for him but later denied it.
“You know [Musk] said the other day ‘Oh, I’ve never voted for a Republican,’” Trump said during a rally in Anchorage, Alaska. “I said ‘I did not know that.’ He told me he voted for me. So he is another bulls*** artist.”
July 2022: Musk says Trump shouldn’t run again
Musk stopped short of attacking Trump personally, but said he shouldn’t run for president again.
“I don’t hate the man, but it’s time for Trump to hang up his hat and sail into the sunset. Dems should also call off the attack – don’t make it so that Trump’s only way to survive is to regain the presidency,” he tweeted.
He continued: “Do we really want a bull in a china shop situation every single day!? Also, I think the legal maximum age for start of presidential term should be 69.”
Trump is 76 years old.
July 2022: Trump lashes out
Trump then went on the offensive, posting a lengthy attack on Musk on Truth Social, the social media company he founded.
“When Elon Musk came to the White House asking me for help on all of his many subsidised projects, whether it’s electric cars that don’t drive long enough, driverless cars that crash, or rocket ships to nowhere, without which subsidies he’d be worthless, and telling me how he was a big Trump fan and Republican, I could have said, ‘drop to your knees and beg,’ and he would have done it,” Trump said in a post that criticised two of Musk’s ventures, Tesla and rocket company SpaceX.
“LMAOOO,” Musk responded on Twitter.
October 2022: Trump cheers Musk’s Twitter deal but says he will not return
Following Musk’s official buyout of Twitter on October 27, Trump posted to Truth Social cheering the deal.
“I am very happy that Twitter is now in sane hands, and will no longer be run by radical left lunatics and maniacs that truly hate our country,” he said. But he added that he likes Truth Social better than other platforms, echoing comments from earlier this year in which he ruled out a return to Twitter.
- Tesla billionaire Elon Musk said he would unban Donald Trump on Twitter, but he also said Trump should not run for president again, with the latter calling Musk a ‘bulls*** artist’
- The world’s richest man successfully bought out Twitter on October 27, but Trump seems to be more focused on his own social media start-up Truth Social, criticising Tesla and SpaceX in a recent post