Elizabeth Warren says Elon Musk launches personal attacks on her, rather than actually discussing the tax system

Elizabeth Warren says Elon Musk launches personal attacks on her, rather than actually discussing the tax system
Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty/Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren spoke to tech journalist Kara Swisher about her spat with Elon Musk.
  • Musk called Warren "Senator Karen" in December after she said he pays too little tax.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Tesla CEO and world's richest man Elon Musk prefers to make things "personal," rather than engage with criticisms of how much tax he pays.

Warren made the comments during an appearance on The New York Times Sway podcast. Host Kara Swisher asked her about a December Twitter exchange in which Warren said Musk should "actually pay taxes and stop freeloading off everyone else."

Musk responded: "You remind me of when I was a kid and my friend's angry mom would just randomly yell at everyone for no reason."

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He added: "Please don't call the manager on me, Senator Karen."

Asked by Swisher whether she minded the insult, Warren said: "What he's hoping for is that this is personal."


"It's about trying to make it personal instead of talking about what's wrong with the tax system," she added.

Warren told Swisher that Musk paid no federal income tax in 2018.

"Every nurse who paid taxes, every firefighter who paid taxes, paid more than Elon Musk. That's a broken taxation system," she said.

Swisher said Musk is due to pay billions in income tax this year. The Tesla CEO said in December he will pay over $11 billion in taxes for 2021.

Warren countered that this is only because he sold off a large swathe of his stock in 2021.


"Pretty much everybody in America would be a little richer today or a lot richer today if they had not had to pay any federal income taxes for years and years and years," Warren told Swisher. "So to say now that he's in this position where he can sell off a slice of his business and make a bazillion dollars and because he chose to take that action he will pay taxes this year — I'm sorry, I just don't think that wins him the Good Tax-Paying Citizen of the Year Award."

Swisher asked Warren why she thinks tech leaders, in general, criticise her and characterise her as a stern schoolteacher.

"I just assume it's the same as anybody who doesn't like someone who challenges them. And they look for what they think is a vulnerability. And somehow, they think that's my vulnerability," Warren said.

"I don't know. I don't actually spend a lot of time worrying about it. I am not a thin-skinned billionaire," she added.