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As Elon Musk attempts to purchase Twitter, many journalists and political commentators have viewed the Tesla CEO’s plans to take over the social media giant as detrimental, and have slammed the idea of billionaire ownership, yet several liberal media organizations are themselves owned by billionaires.
Musk revealed that he purchased a 9.2% stake in Twitter earlier in April and has since offered to buy the remaining shares of the social media company for $43 billion. He also declined to sit on the board of directors prior to offering to buy the company and take it private.
Many media figures have criticized Musk’s moves as that of another ultra-wealthy figure with too much power and harmful to democracy and free speech.
Supporters of Musk and critics of the media pushed back on this narrative, highlighting several liberal media organizations that are owned by billionaires but without the public pushback.
The Washington Post
Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos purchased the Washington Post in 2016 for $250 million.
Some of the paper’s columnists have vocally opposed Musk’s efforts. The left-leaning media outlet published a column from former CEO of Reddit Ellen K. Pao headlined, “Elon Musk’s vision of ‘free speech’ will be bad for Twitter.”
“Musk’s appointment to Twitter’s board shows that we need regulation of social-media platforms to prevent rich people from controlling our channels of communication. For starters, we need consistent definitions of harassment and of content that violates personal privacy,” Pao wrote.
Musk was quick to laugh about the column on Twitter as Bezos, a billionaire, owns the paper.
Columnist Max Boot said Musk was the “last person” who should be taking the reins of Twitter.
Another liberal columnist, Eugene Robinson, said that Musk’s takeover might allow for people to leave the social media site. “It just might be the push the rest of us need to close the app and get back to our real lives,” he said.
The Post’s editorial board also decried Musk’s efforts, writing scathingly Sunday about his “his endless provocations and billionaire bluster.”
“Let’s hope he doesn’t succeed,” the Post wrote about Musk’s hope to own Twitter.
Bezos also founded Blue Origin, a space manufacturer that designs space travel vehicles for orbital and suborbital travel.
Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs, became the majority owner of The Atlantic in 2017. Prior to the 2016 election, The Atlantic endorsed Democrat Hilary Clinton over Republican Donald Trump for whom they called “the most ostentatiously unqualified major-party candidate in the 227-year history of the American presidency.”
Powell Jobs co-founded the Emerson Collective, a for-profit corporation that focuses on immigration, education and the environment. She is an outspoken liberal who donated $713,400 to President Biden’s 2020 campaign, according to Forbes. Prior to supporting Biden, Powell backed Vice President Kamala Harris during the Democratic primary.
Steve Jobs passed away in 2011. Powell Jobs also owns a stake in Axios, which published a piece last week saying Musk was “behaving like a supervillian.”
“Twitter is where journalists congregate and do a lot of their work, and they really don’t want to be working in Elon Musk’s private playpen,” Axios reporter Felix Salmon wrote.
One Atlantic writer, Ian Bogost, made his feelings plain about Musk when he called him a “billionaire bulls—-er” and bully who was an “unusual purveyor of infantile jackassery, whose unfathomable wealth makes it possible, and even likely, that he’ll carry out even the most ridiculous plan.”
Marc Beinoff, the billionaire CEO of Salesforce, and his wife Lynne, purchased TIME in 2018 for $190 million.
Throughout the Trump administration, TIME was hailed for its controversial photos showing a chaotic scandal-plagued White House, often depicting President Trump in an unflattering manner. Their covers often insinuated Trump was controlled by Russian President Vladimir Putin. This differs from their recent cover that depicted President Biden in a positive light regarding Russia; several months prior to Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, Biden met with Putin in which TIME’s cover illustration featured Biden in his signature aviator shades with the headline, “Taking on Putin.”
Like Jobs, Beinoff was a supporter and big-money donor of Harris early in the Democratic primary. Beinoff is vocal in his support for Democrats and has used his company to protest Republicans. In 2015, Beinoff announced Salesforce would cancel any company travel to Indiana over opposition to their religious freedom bill. Beinoff claimed the bill was discriminatory towards the LGBT community. After Texas passed an anti-abortion bill, Beinoff said his company would pay for any employees in the state to relocate.
Musk was TIME’s 2021 Person of the Year and most of its coverage of his efforts has been straight news, but not everyone involved with the left-leaning magazine is thrilled.
TIME editor at large and MSNBC analyst Anand Giridharadas tweeted that the Tesla CEO was the reason to “abolish billionaires” and has tweeted several times critically about his takeover effort.
“I’m just going to say that I wrote a whole book trying to explain the specific moves made by people like Elon Musk to parlay business riches into political power, reputational Febreze, and discourse rigging, and those moves still need more scrutiny,” he wrote Thursday.
Former New York City mayor and billionaire media mogul Mike Bloomberg owns the eponymous media company, which has published critical columns about the possible takeover by the world’s richest man.
“Perhaps some equity partner will take a gamble on the possibility that, at a private Twitter, Musk will be in charge of memes and trolling, and his partner will be in charge of, like, finances and strategy. Or perhaps he could get a league of libertarian billionaires together to buy Twitter as their collective toy,” groused columnist Matt Levine.
Another Bloomberg piece by Tim O’Brien was less concerned with his ultrawealth but called him “bad news” for free speech.
Bloomberg himself ran for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination after serving three terms as New York City mayor. Bloomberg News announced it wouldn’t investigate Bloomberg or any of his rivals for the Democratic primary when he jumped into the fray late in 2019.
Los Angeles Times
Billionaire biotech businessman Patrick Soon-Shiong is owner of the left-leaning Los Angeles Times, which has also written critically on Musk’s efforts.
The paper published a news article headlined, “Elon Musk’s paradoxical vision of running Twitter: Less democracy, more freedom,” where it quoted one academic who bristled at the idea of a “powerful billionaire” running the outlet.
“The potential hostile takeover of this essential infrastructure by one person, who happens to be a powerful billionaire, is very troubling for democratic society, for society writ large,” said University of Pennsylvania Victor Pickard. “Clearly his version of free speech is the bosses’ free speech.”
A column by Mary McNamara declared Musk wasn’t social media’s biggest problem but did write unflatteringly about his immense wealth and called him a “pandemic profiteer” who has used Twitter “to lie about COVID-19, attack critics and get in trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission.”
Fox News’ Andrew Kugle contributed to this report.