Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion articles on CNN.
(CNN)”Saturday Night Live” and billionaire Elon Musk appear to have gotten what they wanted from each other with Musk’s appearance as the show’s host on Saturday. But the price of this bargain was that “SNL” helped Musk whitewash his horribly irresponsible comments downplaying the risks of Covid-19 and his insensitive remarks about the transgender community.
For “SNL,” like all long-running TV shows, it’s all about ratings and relevancy. By Sunday afternoon, there were more than 3 million views of Musk’s monologue on YouTube and early ratings showed a big win on the audience front.
For Musk, the apparent goal was to make himself likeable to those who know him only as the Tesla and SpaceX founder who has been criticized for his controversial remarks. And if you watched his monologue in a vacuum, Musk did come across likeable and funny. He also candidly acknowledged he had Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that affects language and communication skills. (Although his claim that he was the first person with Asperger’s to host was incorrect. Dan Aykroyd, a former “SNL” cast member who hosted the show in 2003, also has the syndrome.)
Musk even brought his mother on stage to joke about his childhood. It was a dream for any PR person working to improve Musk’s image. But nowhere did Musk offer any remorse for his particularly reviled statements over the last 13 months.
The most astounding part is that during the show’s monologue, Musk actually had the perfect moment to show he had the strength required to apologize. Musk stated mid-speech “Look, I know I sometimes post or say strange things, but that’s just how my brain works.”
Did he then note it was wrong to undermine the risks posed by Covid or to voice his ridicule about using the correct pronouns for people in the transgender community — made worse when he defended himself by tweeting: “I absolutely support trans, but all these pronouns are an esthetic nightmare? Nope. Instead, Musk appeared to make excuses for his remarks: “To anyone I’ve offended, I just wanted to say: I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars on a rocket ship.” He then added, “Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?”
Musk missed another opportunity in a riff on people being judged by the “dumbest things” they’d ever done. Incredibly, he thought his dumbest thing was to smoke weed on a podcast. Overall, he seems to be telling us to accept his past — and any possibly hurtful or irresponsible comments he makes in the future — because he’s a successful executive who helped send people into space. Really? (Ironically, one not-so-smart business move may have been his reference to Dogecoin, the cryptocurrency that he has touted in the past. Its value dropped dramatically after he jokingly called it a “hustle” during the show.)
This is not about demanding that “SNL” — or any comedy show — avoid people who will attract media coverage. In fact, in order for “SNL” to remain relevant after 46
Opinion: Elon Musk’s big mistake on ‘SNL’
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