It’s always fun to check in with SpaceX, Elon Musk’s least dysfunctional company — oh wait, what’s this? The workers at SpaceX are upset?
Last week, a group of SpaceX workers wrote a letter to Musk about his tweets. “Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks,” the letter states. “As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX — every Tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company. It is critical to make clear to our teams and to our potential talent pool that his messaging does not reflect our work, our mission, or our values.”
The plan was to hand-deliver signatures of those who agreed with the letter to SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell, who effectively runs the company. Sure, Musk’s title is CEO, but he’s largely a spokesmodel (although I suppose he’s probably also taken on the project of berating the Starship engineers to go faster). Shotwell’s been working in aerospace since 1988, when Musk was still in college. Musk might be the “ideas guy,” but SpaceX is Shotwell’s show.
This is obvious if you think about it even a little. Consider Tesla, which is the focus of most of Musk’s attention: constantly in crisis mode, incapable of meeting deadlines, and currently pretending that it’s manufacturing a Westworld knockoff robot. SpaceX is not like this! It’s also plagued by delays, but it manages to fulfill its government contracts. There’s much less drama around SpaceX, which can only mean Musk isn’t running it. Someone who’s competent at basic management is — and that’s Shotwell.
The “zero-tolerance” sexual harassment policy is a particular issue for SpaceX since SpaceX reportedly paid $250,000 to a flight attendant who says Musk exposed his penis to her and offered to buy her a horse if she gave him an erotic massage. This does not seem like a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment; it seems like a zero-tolerance policy for complaints about sexual harassment.
And, besides, Shotwell doesn’t think the case uncovered by Business Insider is real: “I believe the allegations to be false; not because I work for Elon, but because I have worked closely with him for 20 years and never seen nor heard anything resembling these allegations,” Shotwell wrote in a separate email that was also sent to the whole company. “Anyone who knows Elon like I do, knows he would never conduct or condone this alleged inappropriate behavior.”