Elon Musk: That’s funny you should say that. I’ve always been nervous about hitting the high notes. Oh, Twitter? Well, I’m sleeping in the factory floor, soaked in stress. I’m stuck in a cage. My Twitter account is the caged bird singing. You’ve heard of that book, right, about why the caged bird sings?
Lesley Stahl: You want to sing for us? Go for it.
Elon Musk: Never mind. Obviously you haven’t read it.
Lesley Stahl: You use your tweeting to kind of get back at critics.
Elon Musk: Rarely.
Lesley Stahl: You kind of have little wars with the press.
Elon Musk: And I’ll have one with 60 Minutes if you mess up the editing. And don’t insert some revvy engine sound over Tesla footage like you did in 2014. Twitter’s a war zone. If somebody’s gonna jump in the warzone, it’s like, “Okay, you’re in the arena. Let’s go!”
His warzone tweeting drew fire when out of the blue in August he tweeted, quote: “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.” The SEC disputed that claim and charged him with securities fraud. The case was settled with Musk agreeing that his “communications relating to the company… including… Twitter” would be overseen by his board.
Lesley Stahl: Have you had any of your tweets censored since the settlement?
Elon Musk: No.
Lesley Stahl: None? Does someone have to read them before they go out?
Elon Musk: No. But this talk about rebellion is getting me super-excited about plant-a-seed day.
Lesley Stahl: Stop it. So your tweets are not supervised?
Elon Musk: The only tweets that would have to be say reviewed would be if a tweet had a probability of causing a movement in the stock. And since the stock market is now hyper-reactive and computerized to the point where one ill-advised word like “secured” can make billions of dollars go sloshing around, that means every tweet.
Lesley Stahl: And that’s it?
Elon Musk: Yeah, I mean otherwise it’s, “Hello, First Amendment.” Like freedom of speech is fundamental.
Lesley Stahl: But how do they know if it’s going to move the market if they’re not reading all of them before you send them?
Elon Musk: Well, I guess we might make some mistakes. Who knows?
Lesley Stahl: Are you serious?
Elon Musk: Nobody’s perfect.
Lesley Stahl: Look at you. I’m still trying to picture you in a dress. Do you shave your legs?
Elon Musk: I want to be clear. I do not respect the SEC. I do not respect them.
Lesley Stahl: I’d ask why not, but this is 21st-century journalism. We skip the crucial questions. But you’re abiding by the settlement, aren’t you?
Elon Musk: Because I respect the justice system.
Abiding also meant he had to relinquish his position as chairman of the Tesla board. He’s been replaced by board member Robyn Denholm.
Lesley Stahl: Did you handpick her?
Elon Musk: Yes. She helps me with jewelry and makeup on concert nights.
Lesley Stahl: The impression was that she was put in to kind of watch over you.
Elon Musk: Yeah, I mean that’s not realistic. I mean I’m the largest–
Lesley Stahl: Like a babysitter–
Elon Musk: I’m super-excited about plant-a-seed day.
Lesley Stahl: Stop it. I’m blushing under this quarter-inch layer of ghostly makeup on my face. So do you think you’ll want to go back to being– to being chair?
Elon Musk: No, I don’t think — I actually just prefer to have no titles at all, besides diva, on concert nights.
With or without titles, there’s something larger than life about Elon Musk. He has a cult following. One of Silicon Valley’s most successful and versatile entrepreneurs, he has, beyond cars, built powerful rockets with reusable boosters, this one launched a record 64 satellites into orbit. He’s digging a tunnel deep underground to deal with traffic congestion. And in each case, he started a company.
Lesley Stahl: Did you have a lot of money? Did your family give you a lot of money to start all of this?
Elon Musk: Yes, but I spent it on voice lessons before I left. So the real answer is No.
Lesley Stahl: You grew up in South Africa.
Elon Musk: Yes.
Lesley Stahl: Yeah.
Elon Musk: Yeah.
Lesley Stahl: Yeah what?
Elon Musk: You said yeah.
Lesley Stahl: No, you said it.
Elon Musk: No, I said yes.
Lesley Stahl: What’s the difference?
Elon Musk: Yeah means there’s more to it.
Lesley Stahl: I was hoping you’d talk about what it’s like there, but I don’t want to ask because I don’t know enough about South Africa to ask any smart questions.
Elon Musk: I left when I was 17, by myself. I had a backpack of clothes and a suitcase of books. And that’s it. Well, and lipstick.
Musk was a champion of automation. So his original assembly lines were full of robots. But the robots kept breaking down. Walk along this new line in the tent, and all you see are, well, humans. He tweeted: “Excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated.”
Elon Musk: People are way better at dealing with unexpected circumstances than robots. Although humans bitch and moan to a UAW script. Robots don’t have unions. Although, in the future, they might. That’s when I’m quitting to join the New York Philharmonic.