Cockburn wasn’t surprised to hear that Elon Musk had found himself in yet another spat, but he was somewhat shocked to hear that this one was a matter of national security. This week’s he-said-she-said involved political scientist Ian Bremmer.
In a newsletter sent to his Eurasia Group subscribers, Bremmer wrote that Tesla CEO Musk had told him that Putin was “prepared to negotiate,” but only if Crimea remained Russian, if Ukraine accepted a form of permanent neutrality — and Ukraine recognized Russia’s annexation of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. So, not asking too much then.
Musk hit back in response to a tweet asking whether Bremmer’s statement was true, replying: “No, it is not. I have spoken to Putin only once and that was about eighteen months ago. The subject matter was space.”
Bremmer doubled down on his initial claims, tweeting that “Elon Musk told me he had spoken with Putin and the Kremlin directly about Ukraine. He also told me what the Kremlin’s red lines were.” He added that he’d been writing his weekly newsletter about geopolitics for twenty-four years, doing so “honestly without fear or favor and this week’s update was no different.”
So, who’s telling the truth? Let Cockburn play Sherlock Holmes and deduce…
First things first, both Bremmer and Musk have a history of, shall we say, embellishment.
Think-tanker Bremmer was called out by President Trump for misquoting him, after Bremmer claimed Trump had said: “Kim Jong-un is smarter and would make a better president than Sleepy Joe Biden.” What really happened is that Trump tweeted that he “smiled when he [Kim Jong-un] called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual.” Trump called for harsher libel laws for “fake news media,” prompting an apology from Bremmer.
And in March 2020, Bremmer openly praised China for its handling of coronavirus through “technologically empowered surveillance, incredible data and control of all their citizens.” He added that Americans should “start competing” with China after seeing how it dealt with the virus. Perhaps hindsight is 20-20, but Cockburn thinks this assessment showed a remarkable disregard for the facts, even then.
Over to Elon, and while he may be one of the richest guys on earth with a penchant for trolling, the tech extraordinaire is no stranger to telling tall tales.
While anyone that had any kind of interaction with Ghislaine Maxwell would try and downplay it, Musk’s attempts to do so came back to bite him. A photo of him with Ghislaine at a Vanity Fair Oscars afterparty regularly makes the rounds on line. Musk has always claimed that Maxwell photobombed him and that he had nothing else to do with her. But a Vanity Fair reporter claimed that the pair had an in-depth conversation about aliens, simulations and whether there was a way to “remove oneself from the internet.” Not suspicious at all, Ghislaine.
Then there’s the sketchy payoffs, like when SpaceX, the aerospace firm founded by Musk, paid a flight attendant $250,000 to settle a sexual misconduct claim against Musk in 2018. Insider reported that a cabin crew member had accused Musk of “exposing his erect penis to her, rubbing her leg without consent and offering to buy her a horse in exchange for an erotic massage.” When approached for comment by Insider, Musk asked for more time to respond and said there is “a lot more to this story.”
Cockburn thinks that both men have a knack for storytelling. Perhaps Musk is a bragger and Bremmer is, well, full of BS. Maybe Musk was joking when he described his “conversation” with Putin and Bremmer took him at face value. Or it could well be that neither man is offering an accurate version of events. There’s only one way to find out: call the Kremlin…