Neil DeGrasse Tyson: Elon Musk Is The Closest Thing We Have To Thomas Edison

Chris White | Energy Reporter

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson wants the media to lay off tech billionaire Elon Musk as the Tesla CEO struggles to revolutionize the auto industry.

Tyson, a self-proclaimed member of “Team Elon,” suggested in a TMZ interview Wednesday that Musk is likely “the best thing we’ve had since Thomas Edison.” Musk needs to comply with regulators on probes, but he can do as he pleases on all other matters, Tyson said in a separate interview Wednesday with CNBC.

The Tesla CEO “needs to comply with the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission). He’s got a publicly traded company; he’s got to obey, otherwise there’s consequences. Beyond that, you know, let the man be an individual,” he told reporters, referring to an SEC probe into Musk’s promise in August to take Tesla private.

Analysts and journalists excoriated Musk after he announced in an Aug. 7 tweet his willingness to take Tesla private at $420 per share. Regulators also subpoenaed Tesla shortly after the announcement to determine how much the company’s board knew about Musk’s plan. He also got pushback when he smoked weed on a Sept. 9 edition of comedian Joe Rogan’s podcast.

Business analysts worry letting Musk do his own thing could result in a mess for Tesla, a 15-year-old Silicon Valley-based company struggling to stay financially upright.

Musk’s Twitter behavior is white noise, James Albertine, senior auto analyst at Consumer Edge Research, told CNBC in August. It’s a distraction for a company that should be focused on production and the fundamentals rather than the behavior of its CEO, he said. (RELATED: Tesla Suspends Trading After Elon Musk’s Cryptic Tweet On The Company’s Future)

“All he’s really doing, on some level, is arguing against his relevance at the company,” Albertine added. “The company is still ramping production, they’re still ramping toward productivity, irrespective of what he’s tweeting.” He and others are critical of Musk’s gambit to make Tesla private, which the CEO believes reduces distractions short sellers pose to the automaker.

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