‘Extreme Enemy of Free Speech’: Tesla Critic Says Elon Musk Bullied Him Off Twitter in 2018 By Calling His Boss and Threatening to Sue

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  john-russell  •  4 weeks ago  •  32 comments

By:   Michael Luciano (Mediaite)

‘Extreme Enemy of Free Speech’: Tesla Critic Says Elon Musk Bullied Him Off Twitter in 2018 By Calling His Boss and Threatening to Sue
"He's a very thin-skinned, narcissistic, egomaniacal human being," said Fossi

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By Michael LucianoApr 26th, 2022, 1:55 pm Twitter share button <?php // Post Body ?>

Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

"I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means," Elon Musktweeted on April 25, 2022 after the company's board accepted his offer to buy the platform for $44 billion.

But on July 23, 2018, he was singing - or in this case, ringing - a different tune.

Lawrence Fossi was working as a portfolio manager in Manhattan at the time. That Monday would have been an otherwise unremarkable day at the office, but for a phone call from an irate - and litigious - Elon Musk.

A colleague relayed the billionaire's message.

"Elon Musk says that you're a very bad person and you're writing bad things about him," Fossi recalled the colleague explaining. "He's going to have to sue you and he's going to have to drag our boss into it."

Fossi was incredulous, but quickly realized this was no office prank. The CEO of Tesla Motors had actually called his office and threatened to make his life miserable by threatening litigation.

His offense?

He criticized Musk online.

"It was hard to believe," Fossi told Mediaite by phone last week. "But in fact, that's what had happened."

Beginning in 2015, he wrote dozens of articles critical of Tesla on the popular crowd-sourced finance site Seeking Alpha.

"I would take a close look at its financial statements and write about things that struck me as wrong," he explained.

Writing under a nom de plume, Montana Skeptic, Fossi dissected company filings and provided wonkish analyses to make the bear case against Tesla, which did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

He penned dozens of missives, but some stand out more than others.

Fossi wrote he believed Tesla overstated its profits and papered over losses in its statements. He also wondered if Tesla was hoodwinking Nevada in its deal with the state to make its electric vehicle batteries there. Another time, he questioned Tesla's claims about the safety of its vehicles. In another piece, Fossi declared New York state had gotten a raw deal after investing nearly $1 billion in a factory for Tesla to build solar panels as part of its solar energy business.

Fossi was also active on Twitter using the Montana Skeptic moniker, and tweeted links to his articles as well as other thoughts about Tesla and Musk.

Eventually, one pro-Tesla online sleuth outed him as the man behind the accounts on Twitter and Seeking Alpha. A little more than a week later, Fossi said that's when Musk rang his boss.

What especially irked him was Musk's first line of recourse.

"He had never once attempted to contact me to say, 'I think you got something wrong in your article, factually,'" Fossi said. "He didn't email me or have anybody from Tesla do that. Whenever I discovered I had made errors, I would always correct them in the article up front in a note that was prominent and make note of my error."

After the phone call, Fossi told his employer he would stop writing at Seeking Alpha and deactivate his Twitter account. He stated that while Musk had no valid claim, "I'm not going to drag my boss into a lawsuit he shouldn't have any part of."

With one weird, but nevertheless heavy-handed phone call, Musk silenced a prominent online critic, who bid readers adieu the next day. Fossi said Musk stopped threatening him after that.

The Fossi episode is worth revisiting in light of Musk's pending acquisition of Twitter, especially considering he is being hailed by many - particularly conservatives - as a free speech crusader who will stand up to the censorious ways of Big Tech. Musk has been a prolific user of the platform for years, tweeting everything from schoolyard insults to a major announcement in 2018 that he had "funding secured" for a massive deal to take Tesla private at $420 a share. (Musk has an affinity for the number 420 because of its association with marijuana. His now-accepted offer to buy Twitter is $54.20 a share.)

But Fossi, who resumed writing and tweeting about Tesla after leaving his job in 2019, isn't the only one to draw the proactive ire of Musk for expressing speech he did not like.

When Tesla employee Richard Ortiz tried to unionize the automaker's workforce at company's factory in Fremont, California in 2017, Tesla fired him. Later, the National Labor Relations Board ruled his termination illegal and ordered Tesla to reinstate him and furnish back pay.

In June 2018, Business Insider reported Tesla had to scrap or rework 40% of the raw materials at its Gigafactory in Nevada. The publication cited a source who estimated the situation had cost the company at least $150 million. In response, Musk assigned investigators to identify the source, whom they found to be Martin Tripp, an assembly line worker at the facility. The source explained he leaked the damaging information after he raised the issue internally to no avail.

Musk accused Tripp of hacking and sabotage. Tesla sued him for $167 million. That same day, the company's security department gave a "tip" to police stating that Tripp was planning a mass shooting at the factory. When police found him, "he was unarmed and in tears" and said he was "terrified of Musk." Police said they found no evidence Tripp was planning to do harm.

Tripp eventually settled with Tesla and agreed to pay $400,000 and admit he stole trade secrets. But the Gigafactory's security manager at that time filed a whistleblower report with the SEC, maintaining that Musk's accusations against Tripp were not true.

Less than a month after suing Tripp, Musk thrust himself into the international spotlight as 12 members of a boys soccer team and its coach were trapped in a cave in Thailand. The auto magnate had a small submersible designed and sent to the location to assist with the rescue. Vernon Unsworth, who was involved in the rescue effort, said it was not a viable rescue vehicle, calling it a "PR stunt." In response, Musk baselessly called him a "pedo guy" on Twitter and a "child rapist" in an email to a reporter Musk called a "fucking asshole."

Three weeks after lobbing unfounded pedophilia claims at Unsworth, Musk tweeted the aforementioned "funding secured" claim while the market was open, no less. Not surprisingly, the tweet spawned a trading frenzy that goosed Tesla shares substantially higher toward the $420 price, boosting Musk's net worth in the process. At the time of the tweet, the stock was trading in the high $300s, and so investors piled into the stock hoping to be cashed out at $420 for a nice profit - all based on the claim that funding had been secured for a go-private bid.

Funding was not secured. A month and a half later, Tesla settled fraud charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission after the agency stated that "Musk knew that the potential transaction was uncertain and subject to numerous contingencies." Tesla and Musk each paid fines, and the billionaire stepped down as chairman of the board. The company also agreed the board will "put in place additional controls and procedures to oversee Musk's communications," including his tweets, though the board has yet to rein in the CEO in any way.

"One of the biggest problems with Musk to my mind is that he lies serially," Fossi said, before breathlessly rattling off a series of products Musk has announced over the years that to this day remain mere vaporware: level 5 full self-driving capability; the second generation Tesla Roadster; the Tesla Semi; the Tesla Cybertruck.

The vehicles received heaps of positive media coverage, only to remain in production limbo years after loyal customers put down deposits to reserve them for when they roll off the assembly line, if ever.

Fossi also provided an update on a case he is working pro bono along with other counsel on behalf of a Tesla critic named Randeep Hothi, who like the others named above, ran afoul of Musk. He's now suing the CEO for defamation.

Hothi was a fierce Tesla detractor on Twitter. In 2019, the company claimed he "stalked, harassed, and endangered" Tesla employees who were driving and filming a Model 3 on a Bay Area highway ahead of an "autonomy investor day." Tesla also alleged he trespassed and surveilled the company's Fremont factory, and that he had struck an employee with his car. The company claimed Hothi "fled the scene." Tesla sued Hothi, claiming it had surveillance footage of the alleged incident. In order to proceed with its claim, an Alameda County judge ordered Tesla to produce the supposed footage. The carmaker declined and dropped the suit.

Now, Hothi is seeking damages over comments Musk made after the suit was dropped. The CEO stated Hothi "actively harassed" and "almost killed Tesla employees."

"It was defamatory in our view," Fossi said. "And so we asked for an apology."

He said Hothi would have dropped the suit if Musk had stated he "misapprehended the facts."

Fossi explained their request received no response and that the suit against Musk is currently in the discovery phase of the case.

"He's a very thin-skinned, narcissistic, egomaniacal human being," said Fossi, who, though he has plenty of criticisms for Musk, does agree with him on at least one issue.

"I think Twitter overdoes it with its censorship," said the self-described conservative who used to be a Republican before Donald Trump took over the party. "So, I think some of Musk's criticisms there are valid."

At the same time, he has a warning for fellow conservatives and others who believe Musk is the antidote to censorship.

"I view him as an extreme enemy of free speech, and it's regrettable that the narrative has caught on that he's somehow a free speech hero," Fossi said, who noted Tesla's presence in China, which is the auto manufacturer's second largest market thanks to its lucrative factory in Shanghai.

"By the way, Twitter's banned in China," Fossi points out. "Has Musk said a word about that? No."

Fossi said he can imagine scenarios in which the Chinese Communist Party attempts to get Musk to censor criticisms of China on Twitter by using Tesla's presence in the country as leverage.

"What will Musk do?" he asked. "Ask yourself: would Musk controlling Twitter be an improvement? I have a hard time believing it."

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JohnRussell
Professor Principal
1  seeder  JohnRussell    4 weeks ago
"I view him as an extreme enemy of free speech, and it's regrettable that the narrative has caught on that he's somehow a free speech hero," Fossi said, who noted Tesla's presence in China, which is the auto manufacturer's second largest market thanks to its lucrative factory in Shanghai.

"By the way, Twitter's banned in China," Fossi points out. "Has Musk said a word about that? No."

Fossi said he can imagine scenarios in which the Chinese Communist Party attempts to get Musk to censor criticisms of China on Twitter by using Tesla's presence in the country as leverage.

"What will Musk do?" he asked. "Ask yourself: would Musk controlling Twitter be an improvement? I have a hard time believing it."
 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
1.1  Tessylo  replied to  JohnRussell @1    4 weeks ago

Like #45, I bet anyone who dares speak against the great Elon Musk, he will ban them.  

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
1.2  Tessylo  replied to  JohnRussell @1    4 weeks ago

He's no fucking hero, for free speech, or anything else.  

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
1.2.1  Sparty On  replied to  Tessylo @1.2    4 weeks ago

True .... he’s a genius.  

Putting a big old fat weenie to left wing kooks who embrace censorship and only give lip service to free speech.

This is going to be fun to watch.

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
1.2.2  Tessylo  impassed  Sparty On @1.2.1    4 weeks ago
 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
1.3  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  JohnRussell @1    4 weeks ago

About the Thailand cave incident, I posted today this comment on an article on NT that had championed Musk as a free speech hero. 

I just read an interesting article on CTV News(Canada Television Network web site, which I read every day)about what to expect Musk to do once he has control of Twitter.  It contained this:

A few years ago, after software engineer Cher Scarlett criticized Musk's handling of the cave incident, the tech billionaire fired back and she was soon being harassed by dozens of Musk's online fans. He later deleted the posts, but not before Scarlett had to lock down her account because she was receiving so many hateful messages.

"It's ironic to me that somebody who claims they want to buy Twitter to protect free speech has such thin skin," she said. "He's a very smart man, and when he replies to people that criticize him, he knows what he's doing. To me that's not championing free speech, it's weaponizing free speech, and I think that's what he'll do owning this platform."

(LINK) ->

It will be interesting to see if her prediction is correct and he in fact DOES "weaponize" free speech.  Hey, since even sports can be politicized, why can't free speech be weaponized?  Isn't it an adage that "The pen is mightier than the sword."?

Didn't Musk recently say that his critics are welcome to use Twitter?  Sure, that way he will find out who they are and will crucify them.  Free speech?  jrSmiley_10_smiley_image.gif   Twitter will be his WEAPON.

I am curious about something in the seed you posted.  "Tripp eventually settled with Tesla and agreed to pay $400,000."  Tripp was an assembly line worker - where the hell was he going to get $400,000?

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
1.3.1  Tessylo  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1.3    4 weeks ago
"Didn't Musk recently say that his critics are welcome to use Twitter?  Sure, that way he will find out who they are and will crucify them.  Free speech?    Twitter will be his WEAPON."
jrSmiley_93_smiley_image.jpg

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
1.3.2  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1.3    4 weeks ago

AND....

"By the way, Twitter's banned in China," Fossi points out. "Has Musk said a word about that? No."
Fossi said he can imagine scenarios in which the Chinese Communist Party attempts to get Musk to censor criticisms of China on Twitter by using Tesla's presence in the country as leverage.

It appears to me that Musk has learned from the CPC how to deal with critics.

I'm quite looking forward to seeing what Musk will do if China DOES in fact require Musk to censor criticisms of the Chinese government.  HIs investment in China is massive. 

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
2  Sean Treacy    4 weeks ago

The loss of control by progressive censors is really hitting some hard.

Musk just isn’t the right type of billionaire progressives like controlling the media. 

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
2.1  Sparty On  replied to  Sean Treacy @2    4 weeks ago

Well, time will tell.    

I’m guessing free speech rights will be expanded with Musk at the helm and not restricted even more.    Much to the consternation of the folks who were in charge of moderation there before he bought it.    

An information propaganda campaign against Musk is predictable and liberal/progressive politics 101.    A key part of their playbook these days.

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
PhD Guide
2.2  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Sean Treacy @2    4 weeks ago
The loss of control by progressive censors is really hitting some hard

The level of freak out by them is hilarious.  I've seen them complain that they are going to be fired and how Musk's purchase of the company will be "the end of free speech".  And like this triggered Fossi, nothing to back it up outside of hurt feelings.

 
 
 
Just Jim NC TttH
Masters Principal
2.2.1  Just Jim NC TttH  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @2.2    4 weeks ago
The level of freak out by them is hilarious.

That it is.............instead of having free rein on content and their "feeeeelings" conveyed through their actions or inactions on said content, they may have to put them aside. Funny stuff.  [Deleted]

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
PhD Guide
2.2.2  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Just Jim NC TttH @2.2.1    4 weeks ago
they may have to put them aside.

Are you saying they would have to finally act like adults?  God forbid they do that.  Something like that might make them do something unheard of and be functioning members of society.

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
2.2.3  Tessylo  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @2.2.2    4 weeks ago

Ya!  Y'all are the ones we go to when we want to learn how to behave like mature adults!

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
PhD Guide
2.2.4  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Tessylo @2.2.3    4 weeks ago

Good to see I'm your role model.  Glad I could be of assistance.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2.2.6  Trout Giggles  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @2.2.4    4 weeks ago

I wouldn't let you be a role model for my dog. There's something childish for ya!

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
PhD Guide
2.2.7  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Trout Giggles @2.2.6    4 weeks ago
I wouldn't let you be a role model for my dog

Never ask you to.  

There's something childish for ya!

Can't say I'm surprised.

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
3  Tessylo    4 weeks ago

Speaking of dumbasses.  

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
4  Tessylo    4 weeks ago

279420271_361675256001700_521536845340543184_n.jpg?stp=dst-jpg_s600x600&_nc_cat=108&ccb=1-5&_nc_sid=730e14&_nc_ohc=Ilv6Gdy41NsAX--D1-4&tn=ddyv9WRSVi2y4Anp&_nc_ht=scontent-iad3-1.xx&oh=00_AT9mEbAj1iNssHYoSwuaq7KkTlYoBl1_Tko9GIYfdrJyhg&oe=626D8F1C

 
 
 
Hal A. Lujah
Professor Expert
5  Hal A. Lujah    4 weeks ago

What Musk is in for:

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
5.1  Sparty On  replied to  Hal A. Lujah @5    4 weeks ago

Underestimating Musk’s intellect in this regard is a mistake.    He’s not stupid and my guess is that he is completely aware of what he is getting into.

Some folks on the left just seem to have a bad habit of underestimating the intellect of other folks they simply disagree with.

Usually much to their own demise .....

 
 
 
Just Jim NC TttH
Masters Principal
5.1.1  Just Jim NC TttH  replied to  Sparty On @5.1    4 weeks ago

It is truly amazing. They seem to be projecting their own incompetence on those much more successful and more intelligent than they are. Boggles the mind. Especially in this case. It's as though they think he is going to personally be monitoring the site instead of setting the direction and having a full staff to ensure his vision is fulfilled.

 
 
 
Hal A. Lujah
Professor Expert
5.1.2  Hal A. Lujah  replied to  Sparty On @5.1    4 weeks ago

[Deleted] I’m sure you will be one of the first to be condemning him for promising what he couldn’t deliver.

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
5.1.3  Tessylo  replied to  Hal A. Lujah @5.1.2    4 weeks ago

Yeah, looks like he's getting lots of BJs.

They should really charge for them.  Might make some money!

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
5.1.4  Trout Giggles  replied to  Hal A. Lujah @5.1.2    4 weeks ago

I want to see the first person criticizing Musk in a harsh way and keep his/her account

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
5.1.5  Sparty On  replied to  Hal A. Lujah @5.1.2    4 weeks ago

If he does the same thing to liberals, that pre Musk Twitter did to conservatives, yes I will.    

Great instincts you have there ....

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
5.1.6  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Sparty On @5.1.5    4 weeks ago

How often do you look at Twitter?

I see right wing bullshit on there all the time. If Twitter has been censoring conservatives they've been doing a lousy job of it. 

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
5.1.7  Sparty On  replied to  JohnRussell @5.1.6    4 weeks ago

I dropped Twitter years ago but then again I’m not on much of that crap except LinkedIn and I’ll be dropping that as well now that I’m retired.    

One doesn’t need to be on Twitter to follow the bias there.    I saw a report the other day that something like 99% of Twitter employee political donations went to liberals.

Yeah ..... I’m sure there is no liberal bias there .....

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
7  Sparty On    4 weeks ago

Nah .... refusing to sell a prick ... a car.

edit: response to post that was removed.    #6

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
8  Tessylo    4 weeks ago

[Deleted]

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
9  Trout Giggles    4 weeks ago

I will need a shower after I write this comment.

Some of the righties are right that it seems like libs are freaking out about Musk buying twitter and trmp returning to the platform. Who the fuck cares? If you don't have a twitter account you won't see the trash.

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
9.1  Sparty On  replied to  Trout Giggles @9    4 weeks ago

Spot on

 
 

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