NBC’s Kotb, CNBC’s Sorkin on Elon Musk Interview: We Saw His ‘Demonic Side’ Come Out

November 30th, 2023 3:40 PM

Reacting Thursday morning to Wednesday night’s bombshell Elon Musk interview at The New York Times DealBook Summit, NBC’s Today co-host Hoda Kotb and CNBC’s Squawk Box co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin, The Times columnist who interviewed Musk, described it as an illustration of Musk’s “demonic side” and “version” as Musk blasted corporations who’ve pulled advertising from X.

The blowback came after a November 15 X post by Musk in which he responded favorably to an anti-Semitic trope (despite his apologies).



Sorkin was teed up by co-host Savannah Guthrie, who remarked that Musk is “in the middle of this fire” of controversy, but didn’t “mince words, shall we say.” Sorkin obviously agreed, calling the interview “fascinating” and confirming he “was speechless when” Musk dropped multiple f-bombs in telling off (liberal) corporations.

“I do encourage people to see the whole thing because, in many ways, I think you got to see the full Elon Musk. I think you saw that Elon Musk is many people. You can see the Einstein and sort of Steve Jobs version of Elon Musk,” Sorkin added.

On the other hand, Sorkin opined, viewers saw “almost a demonic version of Elon Musk. And the idea is — the question is: Can people hold all of these ideas in their head and can they be in the same person? What’s so interesting to me he sent saying, I don’t care if I am loved or I am hated, but what I kept trying to get back to, do you care about being trusted?”

Moments later, Kotb doubled down on this label: “You talked about demonic — the demonic side. He talked about his own demons. Like, what did you glean about that part of him?”

Sorkin explained why Musk has this side to him:

[A] lot of what drives him, in very good ways and bad ways, is a childhood, I mean, there was a moment he was almost crying during this interview, where you could really see the demons that power a lot of this. And it was — it’s sad. There is a depression under it...[T]here is something that is driving him and I think it’s, in many ways. it’s productive and, in other ways, it’s less productive.

Sorkin later called out Musk’s insistence that “he doesn’t care” what people think, arguing he not only “cares,” but “[h]e cares a lot” and “[y]ou can physically see” it.

“[M]aybe X will ultimately fail, I don’t know, but I think he’s going to try his heart to get this thing to work,” he continued.

Earlier in the show, Kotb teased coverage of Musk’s “[d]efiant” and “stunning message” in the “combative interview” and there was a report from correspondent Emilie Ikeda on what she called a “defiant,” “long, and remarkably candid interview”. She did at least note Musk’s apologies and his trip this week to Israel (click “expand”):

IKEDA: The richest man in the world speaking out in an interview with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at The New York Times DealBook summit amid a firestorm of criticism over his inflammatory comments on social media. Earlier this month, Musk appeared to endorse an anti-Semitic post on X that accused Jewish communities pushing hatred against white people, writing “the actual truth”, a response that released a barrage of backlash from the White House to a wave of companies, including NBC’s parent company Comcast, pulling advertising from X, which reportedly could cost the social media platform up to $75 million. And Musk potentially adding fuel to the fire last night, emphatically scoffing at the advertising boycott.

MUSK: If somebody is going to try to blackmail with advertising or money, go [EXPLETIVE] Yourself.


MUSK: Go [EXPLETIVE] yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is. Hey, Bob.

IKEDA: Musk appearing to specifically call out Disney’s CEO Bob Iger, who was also interviewed earlier.


IKEDA: Last night, Musk did later admit an advertising boycott could kill the company and apologized for his original inflammatory tweet.

MUSK: I’m sorry for that — that tweet or post. It was foolish of me. [SCREEN WIPE] I tried my best to clarify it six ways to Sunday.

IKEDA: He also recently traveled to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and toured a kibbutz ravaged in Hamas’s attack. Musk insisting it was not an apology tour. And, separately in the interview, Musk voiced concerns about artificial intelligence, saying the developing tech is more dangerous than nuclear bombs and calling for more regulation. Just one of many head-turning comments last night.

Not surprisingly, this story didn’t just receive attention on NBC, but the other two broadcast network morning shows, ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS Mornings.

ABC, naturally, repeatedly invoked its parent company, Disney, as a major focus of Musk’s ire.

“Elon Musk lashes out at advertisers, including Disney, who abandoned X after he endorsed an anti-Semitic posts as he apologizes for responding to the conspiracy theory,” said co-host and former Clinton flack George Stephanopoulos in a tease.

Stephanopoulos later cued up senior investigative correpsondent Aaron Katersky by huffing that Musk dared to take the step of “unload[ing] on advertisers, including our parent company Disney, who left his social media company X after Musk endorsed an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory in a post.”

Katersky took it from there (click “expand”):

KATERSKY: Elon Musk apologized for the anti-Semitic post but he quickly lashed out at advertisers that have pulled out from X.

ELON MUSK: I did clarify almost immediately what I meant.

KATERSKY: This morning, Elon Musk’s regret at the annual New York Times DealBook summit, he said he should not have responded to a post on his social media network X that spouted an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

MUSK: You know, if I could go back and say, I should — in retrospect, not have replied and I should have written in greater length as to what I meant.

KATERSKY: Musk then apologized.

MUSK: Essentially, I handed a loaded gun to those who hate me and, arguably, to those who are anti-Semitic. To — you know, for that, I’m quite sorry. That was not — that was not my intention.

KATERSKY: Musk wrote, “you have said the actual truth” after a user posted that, “Jewish communities have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.” Advertisers bolted, big companies like IBM, Apple, and ABC News parent Disney pulled their advertising from X. Musk, using an expletive to describe what he called “blackmail”, included criticizing Disney’s CEO, who attended the same summit.


NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER RYAN MAC: The thing everyone will remember from today is Elon Musk telling advertisers who have left the platform, left X, to do a profane act to themselves. You know, he has insulted them and he’s telling them they’ve ruined the company by no longer advertising on the platform.

CBS Mornings put its pressure on Musk, framing him as someone who “endorses anti-Semitism” despite his apologies (click “expand”):

NATE BURLESON [in tease]: A message for advertisers jumping ship from X after Elon Musk endorses anti-Semitism.

MUSK: Go [EXPLETIVE] Yourself. Is that clear?


KING [in tease]: Ahead, some extremely blunt language from Elon Musk and blunt is the word here. How the billionaire lashed out at his critics in a blistering tirade in the controversy over his endorsement of an anti-Semitic post. 


BURLESON: Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest man, has a message for companies who don’t want to advertise on X, and I can’t repeat it on morning television or else this will be my last day. Now, it all came out in a conversation with The New York Times when asked about companies who dropped advertising after Musk endorsed an anti-Semitic post. 


JO LING KENT: Right after Elon Musk expressed regret for endorsing an anti-Semitic tweet, he then stunned the audience with his answer to a question about fleeing advertisers.


MUSK: Don’t advertise.

SORKIN: You don’t want them to advertise?


SORKIN: What do you mean?

MUSK: If somebody’s going to try to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money, go [EXPLETIVE] yourself.


MUSK: Go [EXPLETIVE] yourself.

KENT: The billionaire not holding back on Wednesday about companies leaving his social media platform in response to his endorsing an anti-Semitic post on X[.]


MUSK: I should, in retrospect, not have replied to that particular person. Might be literally the worst and dumbest post that I’ve ever done. It — essentially, I handed a loaded gun to those who hate me and, arguably, to those who are anti-Semitic. To — and, for that, I’m quite sorry. That is not — that was not my intention.

KENT: Dozens of companies have already stopped advertising on X, including IBM, Apple, Paramount, the parent company of CBS News, and Disney whose CEO, Bob Iger Musk directly chose to call out yesterday[.]

To see the relevant transcript from November 30, click here (for ABC), here (for CBS), and here (for NBC).