Elon Musk had an unexpectedly tame SNL performance, and NBC just gave him free PR

Elon Musk had an unexpectedly tame SNL performance, and NBC just gave him free PR
NBC and Saturday Night Live did not reference controversies surrounding Musk's stances on labor and stimulus checks during his May 8 TV appearance.Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • Elon Musk's appearance on SNL was tame and uncontroversial.
  • SNL did not address address Musk's prior controversies and gave him a big PR platform.
  • Given the lack of context surrounding Musk's appearance, NBC aired an uncritical portrayal of the billionaire CEO during his sketch comedy show appearance.

During Elon Musk's opening monologue as Saturday Night Live host on May 9, he said "I'm making history tonight."

Musk made history in several ways during the show. He is the only person worth $184 billion - making him the second-most richest man in the world - to host. He is also only the second billionaire CEO to host after Donald Trump, and did so without a background in entertainment.
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But Musk did not mention his wealth or companies, including Tesla and SpaceX. He said during his monologue that he was making history as the first person open about having Asperger's, an autism spectrum disorder where people have "difficulty responding to the body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice of others," per Medical News Today. Some pointed out the statement was not accurate, as former cast member Dan Aykroyd has Asperger's and hosted the show in 2003.
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Though Musk is known to make inflammatory statements, his appearance on live TV was tame and uncontroversial. NBC gave the world's second richest man a platform to show a human, sympathetic side with little critique of his massive wealth and power.

Prior to the show, some SNL cast members criticized the decision to invite Musk due to his ultra-wealth, prompting NBC to reportedly allow comedians to choose not to participate with Musk as host. Cast members Michael Che and Colin Jost brought up some criticism surrounding Musk, joking that the CEO hosted the show to distract from failed SpaceX rocket launches.

"Why are all these rich white people trying to go to space?" Che said.
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Yet later in the episode even Che and Jost appeared friendly with Musk after asking him numerous times "What is Dogecoin," the cryptocurrency that started as a joke in 2013.

Popular comedy shows, like Saturday Night Live, can be a powerful platform for social and political critique and criticism, and that can include poking fun at powerful figures, even guest hosts. But Musk's SNL episode failed to address his extreme wealth or the power and influence he wields.SNL had no mention of Musk's public statements against unions, his decision to defy local COVID-19 restrictions to open his Tesla factory (which led to hundreds of cases spreading among workers), and the fact the National Labor Relations Board found Tesla guilty of violating US labor law.
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SNL did not mention how Musk's wealth tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic alongside other billionaires, as millions of people simultaneously suffered from job losses and slashed incomes.

SNL did not mention Musk statement on Twitter in July 2020 that "Another government stimulus package is not in the best interests of the people."

There was also no mention of Musk's power to move markets with one tweet.
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With the lack of context surrounding Musk's appearance, NBC aired an uncritical portrayal of the billionaire CEO during his sketch comedy show appearance.

When fellow billionaire Trump hosted SNL at the height of "The Apprentice's" popularity, he proclaimed it was a "bigger deal" for NBC than him. Yet reports from The Washington Post, Harvard University, and The New York Times said the media's portrayal of Trump's presidential bid - which was often obsessive and sometimes uncritical - and focus on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's controversies ended up helping him win the Republican nomination and presidency.

Time will tell how Musk's portrayal on SNL will influence his future.
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NBC was not immediately available for additional comment.
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