OPINION: Is The Media Love Affair With Elon Musk Finally Over?

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Brian Maloney Media Equality Project
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After years of fawning coverage, it appears the media is finally waking up to the reality that Elon Musk is a mere mortal, with flaws. It’s been a long time coming.

For the past decade, his press cheerleaders have heralded the multi-billionaire businessman as equal parts celebrity and superhero. Going so far as to demonize his detractors, they’ve provided adoring coverage of Musk’s business ventures, praised his decision-making skills and touted him as the world’s greatest visionary. Tech genius, revolutionary, savior, no label has been too extreme in their eyes. But unfortunately for Elon, it looks like that time has finally passed.

As amassing a business empire is no easy feat, Elon Musk has certainly accomplished extraordinary things. But until recently, the media has sustained a creepy cult of personality around the tech mogul. While Musk is indeed a visionary, for the past few years, the press has argued that he is far more than just that. They’ve admired his seeming ambition, boldness, and ingenuity to a fault.

But now, perhaps because his antics have become increasingly egregious, the blinders are beginning to come off. A barrage of recent investigations into Musk and his businesses have forced the press to take a second look at the man they’ve so willingly propped up.

And perhaps this time, his ambition sounds a little more like bluster (unrealistic production estimates, etc.), his boldness looks increasingly like recklessness (lashing out at the Securities and Exchange Commission during a 60 Minutes interview, for example) and his ingenuity isn’t quite as fresh as they previously thought.

The cracks in Musk’s armor first began to appear earlier this year. In February, the Inspector General for the Department of Defense issued a memorandum announcing that it would be opening an investigation into SpaceX’s launch certification. The objective of the audit was to determine whether the U.S. Air Force complied with the proper guidelines when it was awarded to SpaceX — Musk’s rocket company — in 2015. The real mystery, however, was what prompted the investigation in the first place.

The IG report was enough for some in the media to search for an explanation and begin connecting the dots. As it turned out, the February 2019 memo wasn’t SpaceX’s first run-in with the Inspector General. In December 2017, the DoD released a scorching report of their investigation into the aerospace company’s quality management. But in the media’s bizarre, limitless adulation for Musk, they largely ignored it. Today, all of that has changed.

The report provides a potential explanation for the Inspector General’s recent actions. Detailing major concerns about the quality of SpaceX’s rockets, it also documented the company’s lack of adherence to the government’s compliance standards. Those failings have led some to conclude that the most recent IG investigation is an outgrowth of SpaceX’s previous struggles with quality control and that perhaps Musk’s business isn’t quite as revolutionary as they thought.

Later that month, Musk’s carefully-constructed façade was really beginning to crumble, and the press was finally forced to cover it. On Feb. 25, the entrepreneur found himself in hot water over social media posts he made regarding his other business venture, Tesla. After Musk tweeted information about the company that possibly constituted a breach of contract, the Securities and Exchange Commission moved to hold the Tesla CEO in contempt of court for his behavior.

Musk’s decision to flirt with serious legal repercussions was strangely impulsive and entirely unnecessary. It also raised serious questions about his decision-making and leadership abilities. And once again, the media was compelled to contemplate whether their faith in Musk had been misplaced.

The media’s fears were confirmed not long after. Following his now-infamous appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, the Pentagon is reportedly reviewing Musk’s federal security clearance. Demonstrating a profound lack of awareness and good judgment, Musk smoked marijuana with Rogan in front of millions of viewers. In doing so, he violated federal law and put his businesses at risk financially.

Given that federal contractors are generally discouraged from engaging in illicit activity and are required to acknowledge any illegal drug use when applying for security clearance, it wouldn’t be surprising if Musk’s clearance was revoked.

Unfortunately for Musk, his recent antics have used up any of the media’s remaining goodwill, and it shows in their reporting. He’s no longer the hero coming down from on high to save the day. Instead, he’s impulsive and struggling to overcome his own worst enemy: himself.

Musk may not appreciate the press’ newfound willingness to point out his flaws, but in reality, the media’s change in reporting is a win for the American people. They deserve to know Elon Musk, the man — not the myth, nor the legend.

Brian Maloney (@SScalpings) is the co-founder of the Media Equality Project, a conservative watchdog group.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.