Don Lemon interviewed a mediocre white man

OPINION: In what might be the whitest interview ever, the former CNN anchor exposed the limits of X’s CEO perceived genius.

Elon Musk(Courtesy of Don Lemon/YouTube)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I told y’all.

When I initially submitted a December 2022 article titled “Elon Musk is dumb,” I understood why my colleagues at theGrio suggested an alternate headline. Even though I was not the first to suggest that Musk’s brilliance was very overrated, many people still believe that achieving wealth requires a higher form of intelligence. Still, as an African American who has also never invented anything or founded an automobile company, I firmly believe that Musk’s reputation as a transcendent genius was vastly overhyped. 

Thank you, Don Lemon. 

On Tuesday, the former CNN host released the much-anticipated interview with Musk (I’m sure some white people were anticipating it). “The Don Lemon Show’s” debut episode featured Lemon sitting down with the CEO of X, formerly known as Twitter and the company name most people still use, for an hour-long chat. During the intermittently contentious conversation, the two covered a wide range of topics, from ketamine use to having breakfast with Donald Trump.

In other words, stuff white people like. 

Thankfully, theGrio watched it so you don’t have to. The entire interview could’ve been titled “Elon Musk’s New Clothes,” seeing that the emperor of X was exposed as just another self-assured white boy echoing the same white nonsense espoused by Joe Rogan’s followers on white Twitter. Don Lemon did a good job holding Musk’s feet to the fire, but the biggest takeaway from Lemon-Musk was that the know-it-all right-winger was wrong about… well, almost everything.

Here are five other things we learned from the Lemon-Musk Affair.

1. Elon Musk didn’t cancel the “Don Lemon Show”

“Contrary to what you might’ve heard, we weren’t canceled by X,” explained Lemon during the show’s introduction. “Yes, after months of begging and luring me to offer exclusive content on his platform, Elon Musk decided to scrap the deal.”

The announcement that Elon Musk had “canceled the partnership” between Lemon and X referred to a term found in a little-known reference book called a “dictionary.” The “woke” know-it-all linguistic experts at Merriam-Webster define cancel as: “to decide not to conduct or perform (something planned or expected) usually without expectation of conducting or performing it at a later time.” It is possible that Lemon used the media industry’s version of cancel which refers to a network or media company’s decision to terminate its agreement with a radio broadcast, television show or podcast. 

Being canceled doesn’t necessarily mean that a show ceases to exist.  It simply means that the platform has ended its relationship with a specific program. For example, after Comedy Central canceled the cult comedy classic “South Side,” the show found new life on HBO Max. Mara Brock Akil’s “The Game” aired eight seasons on two different networks after it was initially canceled. 

In either case, the self-described “free speech absolutist” who often rails against “cancel culture” insists that he didn’t cancel Lemon’s show. To be fair, rich, powerful white men like Musk often exercise their right to change the definition of words whenever they see fit because, in Caucasian-American Vernacular English, “free speech” means “the freedom to express ideas I find acceptable” and “absolutist” is defined as “absolutely white.”  

2. Elon Musk doesn’t know how scales work

Aside from not understanding how the English language works, Musk pledged that he would not “put his thumb on the scale” by endorsing or contributing to a political candidate unless he changes his mind. But for now, he insists that he is totally unbiased, although he confesses that he has “made no secret” about his “leaning away from Biden.”

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The Tesla CEO also alleged that pre-Musk Twitter was a “tool of the left” that suppressed conservatives’ speech for innocuous actions like spreading misinformation, having a swastika in their profile or attempting to overthrow a government. And while multiple outlets have reported that X traffic, ad revenue, and overall usage have decreased since the prodigy took over the platform, Musk insists that X is “seeing record usage.” 

If only there was some kind of tool that measures things. 

3. Musk has a Not-So-Great Replacement Theory

According to the National Immigration Forum, proponents of the white nationalist-inspired great replacement theory believe “welcoming immigration policies – particularly those impacting non white immigrants –  are part of a plot designed to undermine or ‘replace’ the political power and culture of white people living in Western countries.”

“I don’t subscribe to that,” said Musk, before describing an alternative theory that was a detailed explanation of the great replacement theory without using the words “white people.” In Musk’s convoluted alternative theory, the Democrat-leaning “illegals” counted in the census count are skewing the congressional apportionment and Electoral College count to blue states like California and New York. He went on to clarify that he only quoted the Great Replacement Theory on the platform he owns because he thinks it is something people should consider.

When Lemon correctly explained that the Electoral College actually benefits citizens in sparsely populated red states, Musk dismissed the woke “math” that proved him wrong. The billionaire South African immigrant didn’t seem to have a problem with racial gerrymandering or voter suppression. Even if every single person who crossed the border moved to one state, it wouldn’t change how people in that state vote. Perhaps Musk doesn’t believe in the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees the right to political representation, due process and equal protection of the laws to “any person.” 

To be fair, that is also the part of the Constitution that gave Black people citizenship and banned insurrectionists from holding office. 

4. Elon fixed racism

When Lemon cited research showing that hate speech has increased on Musky Twitter, Elon noted that the platform’s new “community notes” feature combats the kind of racism that Musk innocently retweets. While Musk insisted that X doesn’t “promote,” hate speech, he said the platform also doesn’t remove it – even when a post violates the hateful content rules – because, according to the new leader of X Klan, that would be censorship. In one stunning exchange, Musk seemed to acknowledge the increase in racist content, instead arguing that fewer people viewed it. The critically racist theorist argued that hate speech was fine, as long as it was not illegal.  

“What they will typically do is count the number of posts and not the number of views…And if you look at the number of views, it is down substantially,” Musk explained “Moderation is a propaganda word for censorship. If it’s illegal, we’ll take it down. If it’s not illegal, we’re putting our thumb on the scale and being censored.” 

Why is he so obsessed with thumbs?

5. Musk doesn’t understand diversity, equity and inclusion

During the 10-minute  discussion on why he thinks “DEI is just another word for racism” (I know it’s not a word, but, for a moment, pretend he isn’t dumb). Musk explained how lowering standards for the sake of diversity ultimately results in unqualified people producing substandard outcomes. While this oft-regurgitated Caucasian talking point seems like a logical conclusion, when Lemon pressed Musk for evidence of DEI-induced lower standards, Musk could not produce a single piece of evidence. Instead, he explained that his argument is based on what he “believes,” before confessing that it is “not yet an issue.”

Since I’ve written about that white nonsense here, did a podcast about it here and tweeted a direct rebuttal to Elon’s claims here, there’s no need to waste your time with this one.

Elon also addressed the woke mind virus, his problem with trans people, and his thoughts about other stuff and things. But if I’m being honest, listening to him embarrass himself on his own platform is kind of excruciating. I don’t even dislike him. In fact, I envy him in the same way I envy a kid who truly believes he is an emperor because someone gave him a Burger King Crown. But I also pity Elon Musk.

Because now, everyone can clearly see he has no clothes.

Michael Harriot is a writer, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His book, Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America, will be released in September.

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