‘UNFILTERED’: NBC Nightly News’ Disjointed Hit Against Elon Musk

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NBC Nightly News presented an oddly cobbled together news item on Elon Musk that, more than anything, seemed intent on extending the controversy over a recent post and further instigating an ad war against X.

Here is the entire report, as aired on NBC Nightly News on Thursday, November 30th, 2023 (click “expand” to view full transcript). A sample clip doesn’t do it justice- you really need to see the whole weird hit:

LESTER HOLT: It was Elon Musk unfiltered during an interview as the world’s richest person defended himself and his social media company amid a string of controversies. Here is Emilie Ikeda. 

EMILIE IKEDA: It was back to business for Tesla CEO Elon Musk today, with the highly delayed and anticipated initial delivery of the EV company’s otherworldly Cybertruck. 

ELON MUSK: Finally, the future will look like the future. [ Cheering ] 

IKEDA: It comes less than 24 hours since Musk’s stunning sit-down with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin. 

MUSK: If somebody tried to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money, go [ bleep ] yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is. Hey, Bob. 

IKEDA: That was the bombshell message from the world’s richest person to advertisers, including Disney’s CEO Bob Iger and NBC’s parent company Comcast for pulling ad spending from his social media platform. An exodus this month after Musk appeared to endorse an antisemitic post on X. 

MUSK: I’m sorry for that tweet or post. It was foolish of me. 

IKEDA: Musk said he meant to suggest Jewish people shouldn’t fund organizations that support groups that want their annihilation. Overnight, X CEO Linda Yaccarino posting that the platform is “enabling an information independence that’s uncomfortable for some people.” Her boss making clear he’s not concerned with people’s comfort of him, boasting the success of his wide ranging businesses that traverse social media, space, cars, and tech. 

MUSK: Hate me, like me or indifferent: do you want the best car or do you not want the best car? 

IKEDA: According to research firm Insider Intelligence, ad revenue for X was already forecast to drop 54% this year. Musk himself acknowledges a new advertiser boycott could bankrupt the company. Lester.

HOLT: All right. Emily. Thanks.

So what the report did is that it glued several things together: Elon Musk’s interview with Aaron Ross Sorkin of CNBC wherein he told various corporations to go blank themselves, the long-awaited release of the Tesla Cybertruck (NBC were the only ones to report that tonight), and the ongoing controversy over X advertising resulting from a Musk post that was perceived as antisemitic. 

And the post is really the centerpiece of the story, when you look at it. I know this because only a tiny portion of Musk’s clarifying remarks were included in the report, to wit:

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I’m sorry for that tweet or post. It was foolish of me. 

But that was only part of what Musk said regarding the post, and this selective depiction what Musk said in clarification of the post he obviously regrets. Here’s part of that statement

Of all the posts I’ve done on the platform, I think there might be 30,000 or something like that, right? Once in a while I’ll say something foolish and I have. And I would certainly put that comment that you’ve said the actual truth among perhaps one of the most foolish, if not the most foolish thing I’ve ever done on the platform. And I did do my best to clarify afterwards that I certainly do don’t mean anything antisemitic in that. The nature of the criticism was simply that the Jewish people have been persecuted for thousands of years. There is a natural affinity therefore for persecuted groups. This has led to the funding of organizations that essentially promote any persecuted group or any group with the perception of persecution. This includes radical Islamic groups. Everyone here has seen the massive demonstrations for Hamas in every major city in the west. That should be jarring. Well, a number of those organizations received funding from prominent people in the Jewish community. They didn’t expect that to happen. But if you generically without condition sort of fund… If you fund persecuted groups in general, some of those persecuted groups unfortunately want your annihilation. And what I meant by that, when I subsequently clarified is that it’s unwise to fund organizations that support groups that want your annihilation. Is this coming across clearly it at this point?

That’s a far different picture than “I’m sorry for that tweet or post”. And having part of that statement in a tear sheet isn’t the same as video. The tone is entirely different in what the reporter is trying to convey. 

This is an item meant to keep the controversy alive, and to further instigate the advertising boycott against X, a site that has done its level best to defend free speech and regain its place as the digital public square since being acquired by Musk.

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