- Elon Musk was on Time’s list of the most influential people, but his profile was less than flattering.
- Kara Swisher dubbed Musk an “online troll” that is “fiddling on his toxic violin” on Twitter.
- The Tesla CEO has said in the past that he has “been under constant attack” from news outlets.
Elon Musk was included in Time’s 100 Most Influential People list this year for the fifth time, but his profile was less than flattering.
In a short blurb for the magazine, journalist Kara Swisher dubbed the billionaire “the world’s richest online troll,” pointing to his acquisition of Twitter late last year.
“It’s a shame, because much of what he has tried to do over his career — even if some of it is still an aspiration — has been bold and inspirational, especially compared with most of the more anodyne techies for whom a better online dating service is the peak of innovation,” Swisher wrote. “But under Musk’s erratic rule, Twitter has become a nonstop grievance tantrum we must all endure, and he wastes far too much of his time fiddling on his toxic violin while it burns. What’s the opposite of progress? Elon Musk 2023.”
At one point, Swisher — who has covered tech since the 1990s and previously interviewed the Tesla CEO on multiple occasions — was a supporter of Musk. Last year, she said in her podcast “On With Kara Swisher” that she was initially excited about his plans to buy Twitter.
“Honestly, when he started going after it, I thought this is the best person,” Swisher said. “Yeah. He could do it.”
But Swisher said on the podcast that more recently Musk has cut off communication with her after they publicly disagreed about some of his decisions regarding politics and Twitter.
In 2021, Musk was Time’s Person of the Year. The Tesla CEO was also on the publication’s list of most influential people in the world in 2010, 2013, 2018, and 2021.
Time has said its list of the most influential people is curated by its editors, and individuals on the list are nominated by previous honorees, as well as the magazine’s writing staff. The publication typically has well known contributors from outside the publication, like Swisher, write the individual profiles.
In the 2010 profile, “Iron Man,” director Jon Favreau called Musk “a paragon of enthusiasm, good humor and curiosity — a Renaissance man in an era that needs them.” And more recently, when Musk was included on the list in 2021, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington wrote a similarly glowing profile.
“Musk isn’t just changing how we transport ourselves, he’s augmenting human possibilities,” Huffington wrote. “And by doing it all with his relentlessly optimistic, space-half-full showmanship, he’s offering a model for how we can solve the big, existential challenges in front of us.”
The billionaire has faced scrutiny over the years, from reports of the Tesla CEO rage-firing employees to criticism of his handling of content moderation on Twitter. However, since completing his turbulent $44 billion purchase of Twitter he has become more outspoken regarding negative press.
Earlier this week, Musk said in an interview with a BBC reporter that reports about him being a “horrible person” have been “hurtful.”
“I’ve been under constant attack,” he said. “It’s not like I have a stone-cold heart or something. It’s rough.”