Elon Musk Tells Don Lemon Americans Should ‘Move On’ About Racism and Slavery

Don Lemon interviewed tech billionaire Elon Musk for the first episode of "The Don Lemon Show." (Credit: Instagram/Don Lemon)

Elon Musk believes Americans, particularly people of color, blame too many problems in society on racism and it’s time to “move on.”

Musk made the comment during an hour-long interview with Don Lemon. The former CNN anchor posted the sometimes tense conversation on social media Monday, March 18, including on X (formerly Twitter), which Musk owns.

The SpaceX and Tesla CEO sat down with Lemon after they inked a deal for the newscaster to debut his new talk show on the X platform. The deal fell apart after they taped the interview and Musk sent a text message to Lemon’s agent saying, “Contract is Cancelled.”

The debut episode of The Don Lemon Show touched on hate speech on X, which a 2023 USC study showed soared after Musk acquired Twitter in October 2022 for $44 billion.

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The two also discussed the decline in advertising on the platform. And Lemon pressed Musk about spreading misinformation on X, including by claiming people may “die” because “DEI” – Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – is being used to “lower standards” in the medical and airline industries in an effort to hire more women and minorities. A claim Lemon told Musk is false.

The conversation eventually turned to racism.

Musk, who was born in South Africa, said too much emphasis is placed on race in the U.S.

While he didn’t specifically say African Americans, he inferred that Black people complain too much.

“I think being aware of inequities in society is fine, but trying to blame everything, trying to make everything a race issue is divisive and corrosive to society,” Musk said.

Lemon responded by asking if he was referring to transgender issues as well.

“Race or gender or whatever,” Musk said.

Lemon asked Musk if he honestly believes society blames “everything” on racism.

“It blames a lot of things on it,” Musk said. “I think we should not make this a constant subject. I think we need to move on. I think we should treat people like people.”

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Lemon reminded him, “This country was founded on racism, founded on slavery, and in many ways inequities that still continue to this day.”

Musk said racism spread around the globe centuries ago, not just in the U.S.

“I think every country at that time, and even today, was extremely racist. Obviously slavery was present in about half of this country… There was racism for sure, but I think we want to look to the future rather than the past,” Musk said. “If you look at history, if you study history broadly, everyone was a slave… we are all descended from slaves, all of us. It’s just a question of when, was it more recent or less recent.”

Musk said he’d like to see “everyone treated according to who they are as an individual.”

Lemon responded, “That’s the ideal, but what the evidence shows is that that’s not actually what’s in practice.”

The tech mogul told Lemon the U.S. has a better record on race than many other countries.

“I agree with you on that, but that doesn’t mean a lot to a whole lot of people who aren’t able to take advantage of the opportunities that you were able to take advantage of simply because of the color of your skin,” Lemon said.

Musk disagreed and asked Lemon how being white has been beneficial.

“There’s an ease that you have in society that many people of color don’t,” Lemon said. “You were able to come to this country voluntarily, there are many people who are not able to come to the country. There are many people who came here as slaves and there is a legacy of slavery that still continues on. There is a legacy of racism that continues on in this country, that’s undeniable.”

“If we keep talking about it nonstop, it will never go away,” Musk responded.

At the end of the interview, Lemon told Musk, “I’m not trying to upset you.”

Musk replied, “You are upsetting me, because the way you’re phrasing the questions is not cogent.”

The billionaire businessman ended the conversation by saying, “My aspiration is to do whatever it takes to extend consciousness into the future.”

The portion of the interview about DEI and racism begins at the 48-minute mark in the video below.

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