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The Onion, a satirical publication, shared an article on Twitter titled “The Richest Person In Every State And How They Made Their Money.” In the tweet, The Onion stated that the wealthiest person in Texas was Elon Musk, who made his money through apartheid.
Musk reacted in character, telling off the publication and stating that readers are shifting to fellow satirical news site The Babylon Bee. “Shame on you, Onion. This is why people are switching to @TheBabylonBee!” Musk wrote.
In 2018, Elon Musk and his family were linked to apartheid in South Africa after Business Insider (BI) published articles stating that the Tesla CEO’s father owned half a share of an emerald mine in Zambia. The BI articles did not make the connection to apartheid.
A number of verified Twitter users eventually connected the Musk family’s wealth with apartheid in South Africa in posts addressing the BI articles. This narrative has been spreading since 2018.
This narrative emerged once more after The Onion received a reply from the Tesla CEO on Twitter. Musk had to address the falsehoods people concluded from the articles after a Twitter user shared BI’s 2018 article in The Onion’s tweet.
“If this is half of an article is a small glimpse into the apartheid mines his [family-owned] haha even [T]he Onion tells more truthful stories than CNN and Fox,” commented @howlpolitically. The Twitter user’s comment did not seem to be satirical.
Musk replied to @howlpolitically’s comment and explained that the article was false. He also shared an article by Jeremy Arnold, a longform writer who talked with Elon Musk, his family, and some of the billionaire’s close friends about the supposed emerald mine and the root of his wealth. Musk stated that Arnold’s article was “actually accurate.”
Based on his conversations with Musk and those close to him, Arnold concluded that there are three reasons the billionaire wants to snuff out the false apartheid narrative. First, Musk might be concerned about the moral implications people might draw from emeralds mined during apartheid in South Africa. Second, the Tesla CEO isn’t keen on the idea that journalists and prominent outlets, like Business Insider, can get away with printing false narratives.
And third, Musk might feel like false narratives, like the one about his family owning an emerald mine, could hinder others from helping humanity because of the public life they may need to lead.
“Considering the high-scale impact that tech has on the world (good and bad), we should want our best candidates to bring their best, secure in the knowledge that they don’t need the privilege to apply and that what they build won’t be attacked without cause,” Arnold wrote.