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Elon Musk's big mistake on 'SNL'

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After much fanfare, anticipation and some controversy, eccentric tech billionaire, Elon Musk took the stage to host "Saturday Night Live."

Posted: May 10, 2021 7:50 AM
Updated: May 10, 2021 7:50 AM

"Saturday Night Live" and billionaire Elon Musk appear to have gotten what they wanted from each other with Musk's appearance as the show's host on Saturday. But the price of this bargain was that "SNL" helped Musk whitewash his horribly irresponsible comments downplaying the risks of Covid-19 and his insensitive remarks about the transgender community.

For "SNL," like all long-running TV shows, it's all about ratings and relevancy. By Sunday afternoon, there were more than 3 million views of Musk's monologue on YouTube and early ratings showed a big win on the audience front.

For Musk, the apparent goal was to make himself likeable to those who know him only as the Tesla and SpaceX founder who has been criticized for his controversial remarks. And if you watched his monologue in a vacuum, Musk did come across likeable and funny. He also candidly acknowledged he had Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that affects language and communication skills. (Although his claim that he was the first person with Asperger's to host was incorrect. Dan Aykroyd, a former "SNL" cast member who hosted the show in 2003, also has the syndrome.)

Musk even brought his mother on stage to joke about his childhood. It was a dream for any PR person working to improve Musk's image. But nowhere did Musk offer any remorse for his particularly reviled statements over the last 13 months.

The most astounding part is that during the show's monologue, Musk actually had the perfect moment to show he had the strength required to apologize. Musk stated mid-speech "Look, I know I sometimes post or say strange things, but that's just how my brain works."

Did he then note it was wrong to undermine the risks posed by Covid or to voice his ridicule about using the correct pronouns for people in the transgender community -- made worse when he defended himself by tweeting: "I absolutely support trans, but all these pronouns are an esthetic nightmare? Nope. Instead, Musk appeared to make excuses for his remarks: "To anyone I've offended, I just wanted to say: I reinvented electric cars and I'm sending people to Mars on a rocket ship." He then added, "Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?"

Musk missed another opportunity in a riff on people being judged by the "dumbest things" they'd ever done. Incredibly, he thought his dumbest thing was to smoke weed on a podcast. Overall, he seems to be telling us to accept his past -- and any possibly hurtful or irresponsible comments he makes in the future -- because he's a successful executive who helped send people into space. Really? (Ironically, one not-so-smart business move may have been his reference to Dogecoin, the cryptocurrency that he has touted in the past. Its value dropped dramatically after he jokingly called it a "hustle" during the show.)

This is not about demanding that "SNL" -- or any comedy show — avoid people who will attract media coverage. In fact, in order for "SNL" to remain relevant after 46 years on air, it must court some controversy. Before Musk appeared on the show, I wrote for CNN that Musk didn't deserve the "honor" of hosting this show, but I didn't call for the show to disinvite him.

My hope was that Musk would use the show to acknowledge (even comically) that his irresponsible comments and actions had a real-world negative consequence on people's lives. For example, it was not just that Musk slammed Covid restrictions last year as "fascist," he reopened his Tesla facility in Fremont, California, in defiance of the state's Covid guidelines last May. More than 400 employees there tested positive for Covid over the next seven months.

In addition, Musk's comments ridiculing the idea of using the appropriate pronouns for people in the transgender community came at a time that Republicans in state legislatures were gearing up to introduce bills curbing the rights of transgender people across the country.

The pain caused by these laws has led some parents of transgender teens to move from GOP-controlled states because of the anti-trans environment these laws are fostering. Musk could easily have used "SNL" to make the apology requested by the Human Rights Campaign, a leading LGBTQ rights group, back in December.

The bigger issue is that Musk, who boasts nearly 54 million Twitter followers and a devoted base of fans, is sending a message to this massive group of people that this type of conduct is acceptable in our society. Appallingly, "SNL" helped him send that very message in the pursuit of ratings and relevance.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 918230

Reported Deaths: 15011
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1252491952
Lake623371084
Allen52301746
Hamilton43009443
St. Joseph41155584
Elkhart32831485
Vanderburgh29698436
Tippecanoe26442247
Johnson23106414
Hendricks21708338
Porter21255340
Clark16988222
Madison16899378
Vigo15562272
Monroe14186190
LaPorte13961235
Delaware13613215
Howard13531258
Kosciusko11150134
Hancock10534159
Warrick10431174
Bartholomew10233166
Floyd10099202
Wayne9557216
Grant8858194
Morgan8654158
Boone8231109
Dubois7521123
Henry7391126
Dearborn734186
Noble7208100
Marshall7168127
Cass7060117
Lawrence6803150
Jackson638980
Shelby6386106
Gibson5999105
Harrison587984
Huntington586490
Montgomery5663101
DeKalb555691
Knox532999
Miami523183
Clinton522464
Putnam519067
Whitley509851
Steuben480267
Wabash470192
Jasper465760
Jefferson456091
Ripley439074
Adams435565
Daviess4008106
Scott389563
White383457
Decatur376895
Clay376455
Greene375589
Wells375183
Fayette363074
Posey351841
Jennings341756
Washington324046
LaGrange312074
Spencer310734
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Randolph302087
Sullivan294947
Owen275961
Orange269659
Starke268961
Fulton264451
Jay248134
Perry244950
Carroll239926
Franklin229337
Vermillion225850
Rush225530
Parke212020
Tipton205354
Pike200938
Blackford163834
Pulaski155250
Crawford140818
Benton138316
Newton138141
Brown130646
Martin124416
Switzerland122310
Warren112616
Union92211
Ohio75811
Unassigned0461

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1319265

Reported Deaths: 21265
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1480641537
Cuyahoga1311202313
Hamilton948871307
Montgomery647451122
Summit548531041
Lucas49502853
Butler45993649
Stark39954963
Lorain30438525
Warren29170326
Mahoning25988629
Clermont24726278
Lake24088411
Delaware21722140
Licking19822239
Fairfield19780218
Greene19671266
Medina19208285
Trumbull19195506
Clark17188321
Portage15585224
Richland15540228
Wood15187208
Allen13654254
Miami13283244
Muskingum11821148
Wayne11448234
Columbiana11100239
Tuscarawas10388264
Marion10273144
Pickaway10162128
Scioto9766124
Erie9479170
Ross8979172
Lawrence8225116
Hancock8105140
Ashtabula8083184
Geauga7976155
Belmont7791183
Jefferson7093168
Huron7087125
Union703549
Washington6823116
Athens666163
Sandusky6608132
Darke6394135
Knox6308120
Seneca6113135
Auglaize569888
Ashland5631110
Shelby555799
Mercer545188
Brown533067
Defiance5278100
Madison527368
Crawford5148113
Highland514876
Fulton508781
Clinton505379
Logan494582
Preble4788110
Putnam4733106
Guernsey439057
Williams437281
Champaign426463
Ottawa425783
Perry414051
Jackson402259
Pike367140
Morrow359149
Fayette353951
Coshocton345064
Hardin341868
Adams338864
Gallia329254
Holmes3148107
Henry312668
Van Wert299269
Hocking280467
Wyandot271858
Carroll250451
Paulding231742
Meigs197842
Monroe178649
Noble160340
Morgan153528
Harrison145740
Vinton130217
Unassigned05
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