Elon Musk is accusing an Associated Press reporter of being a lobbyist over an article about NHTSA’s recall of Tesla vehicles in the Full Self-Driving Beta program. Now his fans are attacking the journalist on Twitter.
The biggest news dominating the Tesla universe today is the recall notice that NHTSA issued about Tesla’s “rolling stop” feature in Full Self-Driving Beta. The feature enables Tesla vehicles to not stop completely at an all-way stop if it detects no other vehicle or pedestrian. Instead, it slows down to about 2 mph and continues.
It’s something fairly common that drivers do when approaching an all-way stop, but it’s technically not a legal driving maneuver, and police can give a traffic violation ticket to someone caught doing it.
Tesla appears to have implemented the feature to try to mimick normal driving behavior, but NHTSA couldn’t allow the automaker to literally program a driving habit deemed a traffic violation and potentially dangerous. So, NHTSA pushed Tesla to initiate a safety recall in the form of a software update that is going to remove the feature.
Elon Musk took issue with some of the reporting around the recall and directly accused Associated Press reporter Tom Krisher of being a lobbyist instead of a journalist:
The Associated Press article on the recall was rather matter of fact, but Musk (through his response to Whole Mars Catalog, a Twitter account run by Musk superfan Omar Qazi) seemed to particularly take issue with AP’s headline: “Tesla recall: ‘Full Self-Driving’ software runs stop signs.”
As for Musk’s claim that “there were no safety issues,” that wasn’t AP’s claim. NHTSA qualified the feature as a “safety risk” and wrote in the recall notice:
Entering an all-way-stop intersection without coming to a complete stop may increase the risk of collision.
As for the claim that Krisher is a “lobbyist,” Musk doesn’t seem to have based the claim on any evidence other than Krisher’s perceived behavior, as mentioned in Musk’s tweet. Krisher is a 16-year veteran of the Associated Press and has no known links to lobbying.
The journalist is now being attacked by Musk fans on Twitter after the CEO responded positively to Qazi calling him a “moron.”
This is the kind of behavior from Musk that I really dislike. Whether he wants it to or not, it is going to set all his Twitter superfans against Krisher. And, whatever your opinion of his reporting, trust me, he doesn’t deserve that.
While the headline is technically accurate, it is certainly deep on the clickbaity side of things. But, Krisher likely didn’t even write it. At large publications like AP, headlines are often created by editors pooling ideas to get the best SEO and most clicks as possible. It’s less than ideal, but that’s the unfortunate media framework these days.
As previously mentioned, the article itself was matter of fact and based on NHTSA’s own recall notice.
Now I already notice Tesla fans on Twitter attacking Krisher for what they see as “mostly negative stories about Tesla.” I don’t think that’s fair. Krisher is not a Tesla reporter. He reports on NHTSA issues. So when he reports on Tesla, it’s mostly about stories related to NHTSA investigations into Tesla. You can’t blame him for having this beat.
Also, if Musk doesn’t like the reporting around the recall, he should blame himself for dissolving his PR deptartment. With no contact with Tesla, reporters have to solely base their reporting on this issue on the NHTSA recall notice.
Back in the day, Tesla would have reached out to reporters like Krisher before the notice was released to give more background on what led to the recall. I have been on the receiving end of these calls back when Tesla had a PR department, and they were useful.
With that in mind, the fact that Musk would encourage someone like Qazi to call a journalist a moron – knowing that he is giving the green light to his millions of fans to go insult the person – is a terrible use of his time and doesn’t show the best part of his character, to say the least.