White House concerned Elon Musk would embarrass Biden in meeting

Musk has been publicly critical of the US president since he championed US electric car manufacturers at a White House event – an event Tesla was not invited to.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk listens at a press conference following the first launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS)
SpaceX founder Elon Musk listens at a press conference following the first launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

White House officials are reportedly concerned that a meeting between US President Joe Biden and Tesla founder/CEO Elon Musk – a vocal critic of the Biden administration’s seeming reluctance to mention Tesla among America’s preeminent EV (electric vehicle) manufacturers – would go sour, as the world's richest person may intend to embarrass or otherwise humiliate the president per CNBC.

Musk has been critical of Biden since an August event at the White House celebrating America's push to develop its EV market that did not feature Tesla.

Musk, whose company Tesla is the largest EV company in the world by sales volume and, according to government data, accounts for 58% of EV sales in the US, said his company was slighted at an August event that promoted his plan for half of new cars to be electric by 2030 – with American auto manufacturers leading the way.

“Seems odd that Tesla wasn’t invited,” replied Musk in an August 5 tweet ahead of the event.

“Biden held this EV summit – didn’t invite Tesla. Invited GM, Ford, Chrysler, and UAW [United Auto Workers Union]. An EV summit at the White House. Didn’t mention Tesla once, and praised GM and Ford for leading the EV revolution,” Musk said at a September Code Conference in Beverly Hills, California.

The business magnate, worth almost a quarter of a trillion dollars, added that the Biden administration is a “little biased or something … just not the friendliest administration, seems to be controlled by unions.”

 US PRESIDENT Joe Biden speaks on Tuesday at the White House about the situation in Russia and Ukraine. (credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS) US PRESIDENT Joe Biden speaks on Tuesday at the White House about the situation in Russia and Ukraine. (credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

Biden invited Ford, GM (General Motors) and Chrysler to the event, as they are the three foremost unionized auto manufacturers and are all members of the United Auto Workers Union. Tesla is not a member and does not have a unionized workforce, and Musk has publicly spoken out against unionization.

In 2018, Tesla fired a pro-union activist employee. When Musk was pressed on Twitter, he replied “Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw [tomorrow] if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?”

When a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during an August press briefing to confirm that the snub was the result of Tesla being a non-union shop, she said, “these are the three largest employers of the United Auto Workers, so I’ll let you draw your own conclusion.”

FOR MUSK'S part, when CNBC asked about the White House’s apparent concerns, Musk responded with a pair of “roll on the floor laughing” emojis and suggested his attendance at a future meeting shouldn’t be a cause of concern. “They have nothing to worry about,” Musk said, adding that “I would do the right thing.”

“I have nothing against Biden otherwise, apart from general concern about more deficit spending, which would apply to any president, and [I] actively supported the Obama-Biden election,” explained Musk.

The controversial Tesla CEO has ramped up his insults directed towards the president since the start of 2022, calling him a “damp sock puppet in human form” in a January 2022 tweet and sarcastically retorting to an EV-related Biden tweet just last week.

Biden did acknowledge Tesla earlier this month, saying "From iconic companies like GM and Ford building out new electric vehicle production to Tesla, our nation's largest electric vehicle manufacturer, to innovative younger companies, (manufacturing is) coming back to America after decades."

The administration also took a shot at Musk, who opposed tax credits outlined in Biden’s EV plan, in a February 8 email to CNBC: “Tesla also benefited greatly from past EV tax credits, but unfortunately, their CEO has suggested an opposition to new EV tax credits,” said the White House spokesperson via email.

Biden, who has dealt with a large amount of disapproval and humiliating insults during his first year in office, has been cast as decrepit, senile and unfit for office by his critics: from being coined “Sleepy Joe” by his predecessor Donald Trump to being harassed on social media, Biden’s roughly 41% approval rating (per FiveThirtyEight) is indicative of the general mood around America’s 46th president – who in 2020 received the most votes in US election history.

MUSK'S TWITTER activity – particularly the hurling of insults – has gotten him into trouble in the past. In 2018, the US Securities and Exchange Commission sued him for a tweet where he claimed that “funding was secure” to take Tesla private at “$420 a share” – claims that were false and also tantamount to stock manipulation.

In May 2020, Musk tweeted that “Tesla's stock price is too high IMO,” causing Tesla's stock price to drop 10% from the day before. The SEC said the tweet was subject to review since it addressed the company's financial condition, though Tesla said it wasn't since it was a “personal opinion.”

Musk has also been accused of using his large Twitter following to pump Cryptocurrencies – chief among them DogeCoin, which saw a dramatic rise from $0.02 to nearly $0.75 per coin.

Musk has also used Twitter to attack personal opponents, such as Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren – who he called “Senator Karen” and an “angry mom” in a series of December 2021 tweets.

He even the heroic cave diver who rescued a Thai junior soccer team from the Tham Luang Nang Non cave. Musk, who sent a “kid-sized submarine” to attempt to rescue the team, called the cave diver a “pedo guy” on Twitter after the diver criticized his submarine as a public relations effort with no chance of success – adding that that Musk "had no conception of what the cave passage was like" and "can stick his submarine where it hurts."

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO was recently named TIME Magazine’s “2021 Person of the Year,” a year after Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris won the 2020 award. While both Biden and Musk seem to love EVs, it remains to be seen if they will find common ground on other issues.