Skip to main content

CNN Portrays Elon Musk As Promise-breaker Over Tesla Ventilator Delivery - Why Both Parties Are To Blame

CNN has cast Elon Musk as a breaker of promises over a ventilator delivery promise. Did Musk deliver or not? Here’s what we know.


The following is an opinion story:
In March, the world was scrambling to find ventilators convinced they are a much-needed tool in the fight against COVID-19. Private entities stepped forward across America to lend what help they could. One of the Americans of influence who promised specific help was Elon Musk. Torque News covered both his promise to deliver help, and we also followed up after the Governor of California announced that Musk had followed through. But did Musk Follow through?

CNN says he did not. The cable news company with a left-tilting viewpoint posted a story titled, “Elon Musk's promised ventilators never delivered to California hospitals, governor's office says.” In the story by CNN, the news group cites a single un-named source from the California “Governor’s office” that says, "Elon Musk and his team told the state that he had procured ventilators and wanted to distribute them directly to hospitals with shortages. The Administration is communicating every day with hospitals across the state about their ventilator supply and to date we have not heard of any hospital system that has received a ventilator directly from Tesla or Musk." The story angered Elon Musk.

Tweet by Elon Musk
Musk went on a multi-tweet rant calling out both California Governor Newsom and CNN. Musk posted images of the ventilators with the Tesla logo affixed being wheeled through a hospital hallway. Musk posted a detailed accounting of the dozens of hospitals to which the ventilators had been delivered. Musk also posted quotes by medical personnel thanking him for the delivered ventilators. By all indications, Musk is correct, and he did follow through on his promise (just as we had previously indicated in our coverage in March).

Dornic of CNN Tweet

But did Musk cause the whole misunderstanding? CNN’s Matt Dornic, Vice President, Communications and Digital Partnerships, pointed out that CNN reached out to Tesla and there was no response. Dornic tweeted, “Weird to attack CNN for what the CA governor’s office said - especially when your own spokespeople at Tesla didn’t respond to requests for comment. Seems like your outrage should, uh, be directed at the entity that made the claim, not the one that reported it. U new to this?”

Here’s Torque News’ take. CNN’s story is accurate, but bad form and rude. The "respected" newsgroup took a single source without a name, which may have simply been uninformed or misinformed, and ran a story that casts a public figure in a bad light – without confirmation from a second source. We also see fault by Musk and his company, Tesla. Automotive media groups frequently reach out to the Tesla media contacts with no reply. This is extremely unusual in the auto industry. Even the smallest automakers like Mazda, Subaru, and Mitsubishi, offer all of the auto press almost instant replies to any question. Even small publications have writers with the cell phone numbers of the public relations personnel at almost all the automakers. We even friend one another on Facebook and communicate via closed Facebook clubs with media and automaker members using both the comments and messenger features for real-time communication. Tesla does none of this. For a large public company, this is ridiculous.

Is it right for a major news outlet to imply one of America’s most prominent executives is a promise-breaker without corroboration? It is not right. Is it right for Musk to throw a hissy fit if CNN indeed asked him and his company for comment and were ignored. It is not right. This whole mess is a perfect example of why Musk and Tesla are frequent targets of the press on slow news days. It is also a perfect example of why folks label certain stories “Fake News” when the sources are weak.

Tell us in the comments below what you think of this spat between Elon Musk and CNN.

John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career and dedicated himself to chasing his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin.


Timothy Parker (not verified)    April 18, 2020 - 12:21PM

A very long time ago CNN was a reliable conveyor of news and information. Unfortunately, it has turned into a politicized and biased reporting organization more akin to a blog or an advocacy group. I do not pay attention to anything coming from CNN.