The Associated Press (AP) was accused of misunderstanding the very concept of freedom of speech after the news organization attacked Tesla CEO Elon Musk for the “contradiction” of purporting to defend free speech despite having used Twitter’s platform to criticize others.
In an essay published Wednesday titled, “Elon Musk, an erratic visionary, revels in contradiction,” AP speaks of Musk’s “manic ambition,” while claiming the billionaire “thrives on contradiction.”
In a tweet introducing the article, AP wrote that Musk’s support for free speech stands in contrast to his criticisms of others.
“Elon Musk boasts that he’s acquiring Twitter to defend freedom of speech. But he has long used the platform to attack those who disagree with him,” the New York-based news agency wrote.
Elon Musk boasts that he’s acquiring Twitter to defend freedom of speech. But he has long used the platform to attack those who disagree with him.https://t.co/qhgm1zQOkz
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 11, 2022
The essay accuses the 50-year-old SpaceX founder of “disdain for public officials who challenge him,” while highlighting his previous confrontations “with health officials who limited staffing at the California factory to prevent the spread of COVID, calling stay-at-home orders ‘fascist.’”
Musk is also described as one who “seems to relish taunting regulators.”
In response, many took to Twitter to highlight AP’s misconception of free speech.
“So what you’re saying is the SOB is speaking freely?” wrote Rhode Island Republican Rep. Mike Chippendale.
So what you're saying is the SOB is speaking freely? https://t.co/FI7ixfONR3
— Rep Mike Chippendale (@MikeWChip) May 12, 2022
“I understand the traditional media really hates Elon Musk (and ‘unfettered free speech’), but they have been beclowning themselves on this campaign against him,” wrote Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
I understand the traditional media really hates Elon Musk (and "unfettered free speech"), but they have been beclowning themselves on this campaign against him. https://t.co/BiEr384DGP
— Brian Riedl 🇺 (@Brian_Riedl) May 11, 2022
“OK, I give up. How does attacking people who disagree with you conflict with defending free speech?” asked Podcaster Gerry Callahan. “My God, the smear campaign against Musk isn’t off to a great start.”
OK, I give up. How does attacking people who disagree with you conflict with defending free speech? My God, the smear campaign against Musk isn't off to a great start. https://t.co/xBsLpNi3O6
— Gerry Callahan (@GerryCallahan) May 11, 2022
“Lots of people seem to be unfamiliar with the concept of ‘free speech,’” wrote journalist Jonathan Chait.
Lots of people seem to be unfamiliar with the concept of "free speech" https://t.co/bwd1UrIoNx
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) May 11, 2022
“A reminder that Idiocracy wasn’t fiction but a documentary,” wrote journalist Nick Gillespie.
A reminder that Idiocracy wasn't fiction but a documentary. https://t.co/QARMLZrWwl
— Nick Gillespie (@nickgillespie) May 11, 2022
“So @ElonMusk is engaging in… free speech?” asked conservative commentator Steven Crowder.
— Steven Crowder (@scrowder) May 12, 2022
“I honestly don’t get how that’s a contradiction,” wrote award-winning journalist Adam Creighton. “Is western society regressing intellectually?”
I honestly don't get how that's a contradiction 😩
Is western society regressing intellectually?😥 https://t.co/ilXp5MiZfR
— Adam Creighton (@Adam_Creighton) May 11, 2022
“I see yesterday was Let Your Toddler Run Social Day at the AP,” wrote journalist Tom Elliott.
I see yesterday was Let Your Toddler Run Social Day at the AP https://t.co/QUd1fCaO5K
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) May 12, 2022
“Everyone knows free speech means you can’t respond to critics,” quipped Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon.
Everyone knows free speech means you can’t respond to critics.
— Seth Dillon (@SethDillon) May 11, 2022
“Leftists at @AP seem to think that @ElonMusk using free speech is contrary to free speech,” wrote Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) May 11, 2022
“Corporate media: Only we should have free speech,” wrote Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC).
Corporate media: Only we should have free speech. https://t.co/b1UBS4AtQo
— Dan Bishop (@jdanbishop) May 12, 2022
“American Pravda: ELON MUSK SAYS HE IS FOR FREE SPEECH. BUT HE USES FREE SPEECH HIMSELF. WE ARE VERY SMART, RESPECT US,” wrote Ron DeSantis’s (R) press secretary Christina Pushaw.
American Pravda: ELON MUSK SAYS HE IS FOR FREE SPEECH. BUT HE USES FREE SPEECH HIMSELF. WE ARE VERY SMART, RESPECT US. https://t.co/uj2lZOW9wB
— Christina Pushaw 🐊 🇺🇸 (@ChristinaPushaw) May 11, 2022
“It’s a sad indictment of the absolute state of our media that the Associated Press doesn’t even understand what ‘freedom of speech’ means,” wrote libertarian-conservative journalist Brad Polumbo.
It's a sad indictment of the absolute state of our media that the Associated Press doesn't even understand what "freedom of speech" means. https://t.co/fjLeOI2zn0
— Brad Polumbo 🇺🇸⚽️ 🏳️🌈 (@brad_polumbo) May 11, 2022
“Bizarre take from the AP here…roughly ‘Musk claims to believe in free speech, but contradicts himself by criticizing his antagonists.’ That makes no sense,” wrote one Twitter user.
Since reports of Musk’s desire to buy the social media giant, many left-wing personalities on the platform have gone into meltdown mode at the prospect of the self-described free speech absolutist’s taking over, with many declaring their intention to leave the site in the event of such a sale.
On Friday, Musk reportedly placed his $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter on hold pending an investigation into bot accounts on the platform.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.