Science & Tech

Elon Musk's 18 most bizarre and controversial moments

Elon Musk's 18 most bizarre and controversial moments
People React To Elon Musk Buying Twitter

Love him or loathe him, Elon Musk - the man who pushes the boundaries of both technology and trolling - has lived one of the most full lives of his generation.

Over the last 20 years he's become known for his work in space, his development of electric cars, and his interest in cryptocurrency.

But it also acknowledged his mischievous side and noted that he “likes to live-tweet his poops”.

Last year he was even named Time's Person of the Year. The awards have been running for almost 100 years and recent winners include Greta Thunberg, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

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While the title doesn’t denote the magazine’s endorsement of someone, it instead acknowledges that “for better or for worse... that person has done the most to influence the events of the year”.

It's hard to argue against that claim. After making his fortune with PayPal, Musk’s SpaceX, Tesla, The Boring Company and Neuralink have all produced incredible advancements in energy, health and travel both here on Earth and in space.

Elon Musk turned 50 last yearGetty Images

It’s made the 50-year-old South African entrepreneur undoubtedly one of the most influential people on the planet and a potential genius – however, many people probably won’t know him for his accomplishments in engineering.

Despite all the praise that should be showered up Musk, he has instead become something of a divisive figure who on the surface is more interested in memes and s**t posting on Twitter than actual science.

‘Troll,’ ‘Edge Lord,’ ‘Prankster’ are all words that have been thrown at Musk in recent years and many wouldn’t argue that he doesn't deserve it despite the honours and accomplishments he has achieved in his line of work.

So to mark this moment in his life, we’re looking back at Musk’s weirdest and most controversial moments – because you often can’t celebrate the good in someone without being reminded of the bad too.

Calling Tesla cars S.3.X.

An early indication that Musk was all about the lols was him naming Tesla cars after sex jokes like he was a cast member of The Inbetweeners.

In 2017 Tesla announced that the three cars in their Model 3 series were going to be called Model S, Model E and Model X. However, Ford threatened to sue over the Model E name so that was changed to Model 3

Anyway, what happens when you rearrange those letters? Yep ‘S.3.X’. Tesla didn’t even try to hide it when promoting the cars.

If you thought that was cringe wait until you learn that his SpaceX rocket ‘BFR’ stands for ‘Big F**king Rocket.’

Smoking weed on the Joe Rogan Podcast

Musk loves a good meme but how about when he became an actual meme following an appearance on the Joe Rogan Podcast, one of the most-watched podcasts on the planet in 2018. During his appearance on the show, Musk took a puff on a joint from Rogan, who is a marijuana enthusiast.

However, Musk didn’t seem to really know what he was doing when smoking the bifta and didn’t inhale any of the smoke or get any effects from it. However, his reaction was priceless and will live on in internet infamy in gif form.


Musk later revealed on 60 Minutes that he really didn’t know what he was doing with the joint. He told Lesley Stahl: “I am somewhat impulsive. I don’t really want to try to adhere to some CEO template. I do not smoke pot. As anyone who watched that podcast can tell I have no idea how to smoke pot, or anything.”

Other highlights of the podcast included him claiming that he was an alien as he has ‘boundless energy.’

During the SNL gig, Musk referred to the incident, “A lot of times, people are reduced to the dumbest thing they ever did. Like one time I smoked weed on Joe Rogan’s podcast,” he said.

“And now all the time I hear ‘Elon Musk, all he ever does is smoke weed on podcasts’. Like I go from podcast to podcast, lighting up joints. It happened once, it’s like reducing OJ Simpson to murderer.”

His Iron Man 2 cameo

Elon Musk Cameo Scene - Iron Man (2010) Movie Clip

The MCU has given us many memorable characters from Tony Stark to Steve Rogers and from Loki to Thanos. Sadly Elon Musk won’t be joining that list even though he did appear in a Marvel movie.

Back in 2010, he made a blink-and-you’ll miss it cameo in Iron Man 2, which is admittedly one of the least memorable Marvel movies. He did have a few lines though such as telling Stark that he has an idea for an “electric jet.”.

Musk’s cameos don’t end there as he’s also popped up in The Simpsons, South Park,The Big Bang Theory and Rick and Morty.

Being flummoxed by Werner Herzog

Elon Musk: Internet on Mars & Artificial

Werner Herzog is one of the cinema’s great filmmakers and has been known to go to incredible lengths to get his films and documentaries made. Pulling a huge boat over a hill? Yep, he’s done that. Hypnotising his entire cast? Done that too. Visiting a volcanic island that was due to erupt? Bingo.

For his 2016 documentary about the internet Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World, Herzog paid a visit to Musk as SpaceX keen to learn more about the South African’s plans to colonise Mars.

During their conversation Musk complained about how hard it is to get just one person to Mars. Without hesitation, Herzog volunteers himself to go on the voyage on a ‘one-way ticket.’ Musk seems briefly stunned that this 70+ year-old German man would be willing to go through with such a journey, which probably wouldn’t even be the most audacious thing Herzog has ever done.

That being said, Herzog would later compare Musk’s plans for Mars to ‘fascism’ so perhaps he wasn’t that keen after all.

Joking about sending 'space dragons with lasers' to Ukraine

Musk recently joked that he will send “space dragons with ‘lasers’” to Ukraine to help the fight against Russian forces. The Tesla and SpaceX boss made the remark after a satirical website, The Babylon Bee, shared an article stating that Musk would send flame-throwing electric tanks to Ukraine.

Musk responded to the satirical piece with: “Pshaw, how pedestrian! I was thinking more … space dragons with ‘lasers’”.

Predicting the exact year humans will make it to Mars

When Elon makes predictions, people tend to listen – especially when it’s about space travel.

He gave his estimation for when humans will land on Mars for the first time. When a Twitter user tagged him to ask for his estimation, Musk replied: “2029.”

It’s just seven short years away. Will he be proven right?

His bonkers tweets costing Tesla money

Musk is seemingly on Twitter 24/7 and when he’s not talking about the latest SpaceX launch or arguing with Bernie Sanders he is often tweeting nonsense and memes. Here is just a small example of his many strange tweets that would be fine if they were coming from a 15-year-old but not one of the richest men in the world.

However, in 2018 Musk’s tweets were become so erratic and bizarre that Tesla investors had to tell him to basically ‘shut up’ as he was costing them money. This was after Musk tweeted about the Shortseller Enrichment Commission, a regulator that had just made a multi-million dollar settlement with him over alleged security fraud.

This might not have stopped him from sharing memes but he’s almost definitely a bit more measured about sensitive material these days.

Musk referred to this on SNL, saying: “Look I know I sometimes say or post strange things but that’s just how my brain works.

“To anyone I’ve offended, I just want to say ‘I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocket ship, did you also think I was going to be a chill, normal dude?’”

Fair point.

Challenging Vladimir Putin to ‘single combat’

Musk offered to fight Putin to end the invasion of Ukraine Getty Images

Of all the things Musk has ever done, this might be the craziest yet.

The billionaire baffled the internet recently after challenging Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin to “single combat”, with the country of Ukraine as the stakes.

He already played an important role in the conflict, after being thanked by Ukraine for providing the country with internet via SpaceX’s Starlink satellites.

But calling out Putin for a fight? Slightly less helpful, we’d say.

Changing his Twitter name to Elona

And the implications of his offer to fight Putin weren’t done there.

He took the unusual step of changing his name on Twitter from Elon to Elona, after being called “'effeminate” from the Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Kadyrov was commenting on Musk’s decision to challenge Putin when he wrote on Telegram that Musk would require a huge amount of training to beat Putin.

The name of his and Grimes's children

Musk and his indie-pop star partner Grimes had a baby in May 2020, which they called X Æ A-12 Musk, which was off even for their standards. People were a little confused as to how to pronounce the name at first until Grimes went ahead and tried to explain it.

However, even she appeared to be a bit confused as Musk later corrected her.

Even Gwenyth Paltrow, who called her child Apple, thought the name was controversial. As it turns out, under California law, no numbers are allowed in a person’s name. Therefore the couple had to change the name to: X Æ A-Xii which is probably even more confusing.

Musk referenced the confusing during his SNL monologue, saying: “It’s pronounced cat running across keyboard.”

The pair then announced they had a second child, too, with a similarly strange name.

Grimes was holding a young baby – born by surrogate in December - during an interview with Vanity Fair in March, meaning she was made to explain that it was child number two.

“She’s a little colicky too,” the artist explained, going on to write in a text to the reporter that the child’s full name is Exa Dark Sideræl Musk. It’s Y, for short.

Yes, really.

Calling a man who rescued children from a cave a ‘pedo guy’

The June 2018 rescue of 12 boys trapped in a cave in Thailand was one of the most dramatic moments of that year. However, a row erupted between Musk and Vernon Unsworth, an experienced cave diver who was recruiting experts to help in the rescue effort.

Musk sent a team of engineers and a small submarine to Thailand but they weren’t used in the effort. Unsworth later accused Musk of carrying out a PR stunt and told CNN that he could “stick his submarine where it hurts.” Musk hit back with a series of insulting tweets to Unsworth which included calling him a ‘pedo guy.’

Eventually, Musk managed to win a defamation case against Unsworth after arguing that the term is a common insult in South Africa that is synonymous with “creepy old man [and] aimed at insulting one’s appearance and demeanour.”

‘RIP Harambe’ song

In 2016, the biggest meme of the planet was Harambe, the dead gorilla who became an internet sensation. Of course, Musk has to get involved somehow but rather than post memes like everyone else he went ahead and produced an extremely auto-tuned song about the deceased primate.

For some reason, he released this on a Soundcloud called Emo G Records three years after the meme was everywhere as part of an April Fools prank. A year later he dropped another song called ‘Don’t Doubt ur Vibe’ which is perhaps marginally better.

Spreading Covid-19 conspiracies

Perhaps inevitably Elon Musk has begun engaging in conspiracy theories and in 2020, like many tin-foil hate wearers he was very keen to share his thoughts on the coronavirus pandemic.

On 13th November 2020, he began suggesting that not everything was quite right about Covid testing. As he managed to get different results from four tests on the same day.

Musk was widely condemned for the tweet but that was far from the only misinformation he spread about the disease.

Mocking pronouns

Another moment that shone Musk in a less than favourable light last year was when he decided to mock pronouns for no reason whatsoever other than not liking them.

Initially, this was seen as an attack on trans people but Musk did clarify his position as being pro-trans but anti-pronouns, which were not sure really helps anyone.

Inventing tunnels

Aside from SpaceX and Tesla, Musk’s other big venture right now is The Boring Company which he believes will be the future of inner-city travel by car. His plan is to essentially build high-speed tunnels under major cities, which is basically what a subway does. He even said so much when launching the project in 2018:

“If you do hundreds of tunnels and have dozens of small stations woven throughout the fabric of the city, you can actually, without even the city appearing different, you could solve the transport problem. Compared to an above-ground system or compared to a flying car, you don’t have to worry about bad weather. You can’t see it, hear it, feel it, you’re not dividing communities with lanes, and we think we can make this really fun.”

Surely this wasn’t going to be an actual tunnel?

Well, an early example of the project was launched in Las Vegas earlier this month and yes...they would appear to just tunnels with fluorescent lights.

Sending his car into space

SpaceX Starman - Elon Musk Put a Car in

We've saved possibly the strangest until last. When SpaceX launched their Falcon Heavy rocket into space in February 2018 musk put a special package aboard...his own car, complete with a dummy in spacesuit listening to David Bowie.

The car is still out there somewhere in the solar system but your guess is as good as ours as to what state it is in now.

Buying Twitter for $44bn

In April 2020, Musk struck a deal to become the biggest shareholder at the social media giant after he brought 7.5 per cent of the company. Despite this, it was agreed that he would not become a member of their board of directors. Instead, he offered to buy the entire company for a staggering $44 billion and immediately indicated his desire to take Twitter private and restore it's status as a 'free speech' platform. In a statement the South African said: "Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated, I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential—I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it."

When he was slammed by Zelensky for attempting to end the war in Ukraine

For some reason, Musk took it upon himself to try and end the war in Ukraine with a Twitter poll – and it really didn’t go down well with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Tesla CEO put forward a number of suggestions, one being that the sham referendums of annexed regions must be performed again under the supervision of the United Nations - with Russian aggressors leaving if it is the 'will of the people'.

He also said that Crimea should become a formal part of Russia, before saying that it ’has been since 1783’, as well as adding that Ukraine should remain neutral after the conflict.

Safe to say, it was met with an angry response from Ukraine officials, with Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, telling him simply to “f*** off”.

Zelensky then responded by asking his Twitter followers which 'Musk' his followers preferred - the one who supports Ukraine, or the one who supports Russia.

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