At a Friday meeting of President Donald Trump’s economic advisory council, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says he made sure the Trump administration’s travel ban was a major topic of discussion.
No details of the meeting have emerged, but Musk was following up on previous public commitments to use his role to share a pro-business and pro-innovation perspective with the President. Along with personal concerns about human rights and equity, many tech leaders see the President’s attempts to restrict immigration—including visas for skilled guest workers—as potentially throttling the stream of global talent that has allowed American companies to dominate the global technology industry.
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Musk’s continued engagement with Trump is risky, given that many of his educated, high-income, and climate-conscious customers likely oppose the Trump administration. It stands in contrast to the decision of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to leave the council this week.
Kalanick’s departure came on the heels of a viral #deleteuber boycott that accused Uber (probably speciously) of interfering with a taxi drivers' strike in opposition to Trump’s Muslim travel ban. At the time of his departure, Kalanick wrote to employees that “The implicit assumption that Uber (or I) was somehow endorsing the Administration’s agenda has created a perception-reality gap between who people think we are, and who we actually are.”
Musk has repeatedly made clear that his participation in the council meetings is not an endorsement of Trump administration policies, and observers seem to have largely accepted his reasoning. While Buzzfeed News recently reported on a handful of customers cancelling pre-orders for the forthcoming Tesla Model 3, there has been no sign of a groundswell akin to the #deleteuber boycott.
Twitter responses to Musk were cautious, but frequently supportive.
Musk also said he raised the issue of climate change during the meeting. It’s an issue that has animated Musk’s entire career, but Trump has expressed extreme skepticism about climate change, and his administration has already moved to quash the subject.
The lingering question, of course, is whether President Trump is likely to be influenced by input that conflicts with his own worldview, even when it comes from one of the most admired people in America.