Kara Swisher — the esteemed tech journalist and “On” podcaster who just on Sunday pegged Elon Musk as a “petty jerk” who “might be crazy in good way, but also a bad way” — surprised even herself on Monday’s “SmartLess” by going to bat for the embattled X owner.
Speaking with hosts Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett, Swisher defended the tech billionaire against the latter’s accusations that Musk is a liar who has exaggerated his own tech chops for years.
“I can’t believe I’m defending Elon right now, he’s a super chode right now,” Swisher quipped.
The conversation began on Monday’s episode of the “SmartLess” podcast with host Bateman exclaiming that there were two things that he wanted Swisher’s help clearing up, “both Musk-related. One: current status on the cage match, and also why are we switching from the bird to the X. And I’m sorry if there are articles out there that explain all of this, but I’m not a reader.”
“Well, I think the X one is this-is-your-brain-on-drugs,” Swisher responded in jest before reflecting on her early interactions with Musk and how “he’s changed rather drastically in the last years.”
She said that early on he “was a really intriguing and interesting person” because while competitors and former colleagues were more conservative in their aspirations, he “started doing space, Tesla, really cool stuff.”
“I’ve spent a lot of time with him,” she said.
That’s when Arnett chimed, saying “he’s obviously a fairly clever guy.”
“Very,” Swisher agreed.
But Arnett continued by saying the tech giant has misled people about his education — “he did not graduate with any degrees from any of these places that he claims he graduated from” — and that he falsely had people believing that he is the inventor of Tesla and many of his better-known properties, when actually he’s the businessman behind them.
“He didn’t invent any of these things,” Arnett said. “He stepped in, and I think that he’s obviously quite a shrewd businessman, that’s what he is best at, but he tries to sell himself as the inventor, when really he’s a good businessman. And it’s OK to be a good businessman, but he wants the credit for being a big brain.”
“I mean, I think he sees himself as the Iron Man, you know, that guy — Robert Downey Jr.’s role there. But he does have technological chops, there’s no question, you couldn’t fake it this long,” Swisher emphasized. “But you’re right, he didn’t start Tesla. He bought companies, he’s buying Twitter — he turned out to be very bad at media. But he is, let me just say, he is quite brilliant in terms of business. You could say that Steve Jobs didn’t have real technical chops, it was others, Steve Wozniak and others, but he knew how to build a business. And that was critical.”
Listen to the full episode of “SmartLess” with Swisher here.