For years, Elon Musk kept fairly quiet about his political beliefs. He was a registered independent voter in California and claims to have supported Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.
But the days of Mr Musk keeping his politics quiet are over.
Since the onset of Covid-19, Mr Musk has become increasingly vocal about his right-wing politics — railing against Covid restrictions and work-from-home policies, urging people to support Republicans in the midterm elections, being accused of tweeting antisemitic statements, and offering a platform to Tucker Carlson.
On Wednesday, Mr Musk will reportedly make his most direct foray into the 2024 presidential election yet when he is expected to help Gov Ron DeSantis of Florida launch his campaign. NBC News first reported the collaboration.
Mr Musk said that his appearance with Mr DeSantis on Twitter Spaces is not an endorsement. It is, however, another instance of the Twitter owner providing a friendly platform to a far-right figure. The conversation between Mr Musk and Mr DeSantis will be moderated by tech entrepreneur David Sacks, who has given tens of thousands of dollars to the governor’s political committee.
“I will be interviewing Ron DeSantis, and he has quite an announcement to make,” Mr Musk said at a Wall Street Journal event on Tuesday. “And it will be the first time that something like this is happening on social media and with real-time questions and answers, unscripted.”
Mr Musk appears to be keeping close tabs on the developing Republican primary field. On Monday, Mr Musk retweeted a live stream of Sen Tim Scott of South Carolina announcing his candidacy for president in North Charleston.
But Mr Musk has long praised Mr DeSantis, who has pushed during his tenure as Florida governor to ban gender-affirming care for minors, ban discussions of race, gender, and sexuality in public schools, compromise the state’s tenure system, and punish corporations like Disney for their stances on social issues.
“Trump would be 82 at end of term, which is too old to be chief executive of anything, let alone the United States of America,” Mr Musk tweeted in July of last year. “If DeSantis runs against Biden in 2024, then DeSantis will easily win – he doesn’t even need to campaign.”
Mr Musk appears much less bullish on Mr Trump, even though he reinstated the former president’s Twitter account after he took over the platform. Mr Trump was initially banned from Twitter in the aftermath of the events of January 6.
“I don’t hate the man, but it’s time for Trump to hang up his hat & sail into the sunset,” Mr Musk tweeted last year. “Dems should also call off the attack – don’t make it so that Trump’s only way to survive is to regain the Presidency.”
Mr Musk also tweeted that Mr Trump is “too much drama,” and asked whether Americans “really want a bull in a china shop situation every single day!?” He also suggested, in one of his standard attempts at humour, that the maximum age for the start of a presidential term should be 69.
The fact that Mr DeSantis is launching his campaign on Twitter speaks to the platform’s rising currency with Republican voters under Mr Musk’s leadership.
Mr Musk’s embrace of Republican politicians and right-wing talking points has come as his purchase of Twitter has given him an outsize role in shaping public conversation around the campaign.
It’s also led to a barrage of hate speech. Since Mr Musk’s takeover of Twitter and reinstatement of a number of previously banned accounts, the amount of hate speech targeting Black people, LGBTQ+ people, Jews, and other groups has surged.
“Elon Musk sent up the Bat Signal to every kind of racist, misogynist and homophobe that Twitter was open for business,” Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, told The New York Times last year. “They have reacted accordingly.”