Elon Musk says story about fired assistant is false

Elon Musk
Image: MACMAHON/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

In the last couple of days, a story lifted from Ashlee Vance’s biography of Elon Musk has been making the rounds on the internet, claiming that Musk fired his assistant of 12 years when she wanted a raise.

The story portrays Musk as an unusually cruel (or extremely efficient, depending on your perspective) leader, but now Musk himself has taken to Twitter to explain that the story isn’t true.

The anecdote, originally published in Vance’s book Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, goes like this. Mary Beth Brown asked for a significant raise after having worked as Musk’s assistant for 12 years. Musk responded by asking Brown to take two weeks’ leave to see whether she’s really indispensable to him. After he’d realized she’s not, he promptly fired her.

Now, in a series of tweets, Musk said the story is “complete nonsense.” He calls Vance’s biography “mostly correct,” but points out that it’s also “rife with errors” and that it was “never independently fact-checked,” despite Musk’s request for Vance to do so.

According to Musk, “Mary Beth was an amazing assistant for over 10 yrs, but as company complexity grew, the role required several specialists vs one generalist.” She was given, Musk claims, 52 weeks of salary and stock for her contribution.

Things get more interesting from there, as Musk’s mother, Maye Musk, enters the conversation, tweeting that “some of the facts (in the biography) were glaringly wrong,” though she does say the book was “interesting.”

From there on, Musk tries to lighten the tone of the conversation, saying that another incorrect anecdote was that he never said he was a “samurai,” and then goes on to explaining the hardships of becoming a ninja.

It’s worth pointing out, though, that Musk never goes into the finer details of the story about the fired assistant. For example, he never mentions the part about Brown asking for a raise and then being asked to take a leave so Musk can assess the value of her contributions which is arguably the crux of the story.

Musk also said there are “dozens” of “bogus or half-true anecdotes” out there that “don’t really matter,” and “maybe 5 to 10” that do, before promising that a list of those is “coming soon.” This should be interesting.

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