Elon Musk Calls NYT Reporter To Apologize Before Blasting Him On Twitter

Illustration for article titled Elon Musk Calls NYT Reporter To Apologize Before Blasting Him On Twitter

Drama! There’s loads of drama on tap in the electric car world between the New York Times and Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk over the Times’ recent test of a Model S. Now, the reporter who wrote the damning piece has fired back against Musk’s claim that the story was “fake.”

A little refresher if you haven’t been paying attention so far: Times reporter John M. Broder penned a story in which he attempted to drive the Model S in very cold weather from New York to Boston, but the car ended the journey on a flatbed after unexpectedly running out of juice. (Tesla's stock also took a hit after that story ran.) 

Musk responded on Twitter by calling the story “fake”, and said that he has data from the car to indicate what he says actually happned. He also gave an interview to CNBC where he said he felt the story was "something of a setup." 


Yesterday Broder took to the NYT’s Wheels blog to defend his article. Essentially, he says that the story was not faked, and goes into great detail explaining how the trip went. He also said that Tesla was the one who reached out to the Times for the test; the story idea and timing were theirs.

But here’s the real kicker: Before blasting Broder on the Internet, and before Broder’s story was posted, Musk called him to apologize about how the drive went.

One final note. Mr. Musk called me on Friday, before the article went up on the Web, to offer sympathy and regrets about the outcome of my test drive. He said that the East Coast charging stations should be 140 miles apart, not 200 miles, to take into account the traffic and temperature extremes in this part of the country.

He offered me a second chance at a test drive in a few months, after additional Supercharger stations come online.

I have a lot of respect for Elon Musk for being such an ardent and passionate defender of his product. But I also have to object to the way he reacted to Broder’s story. It’s one thing to say it had factual errors, or to say that there was egregious user error with the car, but using the word “fake” was a misstep on Musk’s part. That’s an extreme claim to make, as it implies that the story was fabricated or that Broder lied in the course of his reporting. Reporters (the good ones, anyway) take their integrity very seriously, and Musk had better be able to back his words up somehow.

Musk has promised a blog “detailing what actually happened on Broder's NYTimes 'range test.'" That hasn't happened yet. If he has the data to back up his claim, we can't wait to see it. 

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Matt Hardigree

I was once told by a Top Gear person, over drinks, that the Tesla Roadster story they aired would have obviously turned into a "OMG, how great is the Model S" kind of piece had it not been for Musk's attitude and fruitless lawsuit. And this is before they'd even driven the car.

I've never had a problem with Elon. He's always been polite and direct in the handful of times we've communicated, but he seems to think the world is filled with the fawning, spineless reporters that make up a decent proportion of the West Coast Tech Media. It's not, and people can brush us aside, but it's harder to brush aside the NYTimes.