• April 19, 2024

NBC & ABC Hype Bezos Claim of Musk (Probably Not) Under China’s Influence

On Tuesday, both NBC’s Today show and ABC’s Good Morning America hyped a suggestion from Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos that fellow billionaire and new Twitter owner Elon Musk might be under the influence of China’s authoritarian regime given the amount of business the Tesla CEO does in the country. However, neither network mentioned that in a follow-up tweet, Bezos admitted that Musk was “probably not” beholden to China.

“Sold. After weeks of watching and waiting, Elon Musk reaches a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion,” co-host Hoda Kotb announced at the start of NBC’s Today show. She then was quick to sound the alarm: “This morning, inside the world’s richest man’s plans to change the popular platform, the critics who call the move dangerous, and the looming battle of the billionaires as Jeff Bezos raises his own questions about the deal.”

 

 

In another tease moments later, fellow co-host Savannah Guthrie repeated: “Fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos now raising some serious new questions about what it means for the platform and who might benefit, which countries might benefit. We’ll get into that just ahead.”

In the report that followed, technology correspondent Jo Ling Kent – who already claimed in prior coverage that Musk’s takeover of Twitter may endanger the “safety” of users, “especially for women and minorities” – hyped:

Some critics worry how Musk, who’s faced his own backlash over controversial and offensive tweets, will handle Twitter’s challenges with misinformation and toxic content. The ACLU raising concerns over a powerful central actor having so much control over the boundaries of our political speech online.

She then cited: “Rival billionaire and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also throwing shade at the deal, questioning whether China would gain more influence over Twitter due to Musk’s other company, Tesla, doing so much business there.”

Bezos initially quote-tweeted someone pointing out Musk’s business interests in China, speculating: “Interesting question. Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?”

 

 

However, in a second tweet in the thread, Bezos promptly dismissed the notion: “My own answer to this question is probably not. The more likely outcome in this regard is complexity in China for Tesla, rather than censorship at Twitter.”

 

 

In the final tweet in the thread, Bezos neutrally observed: “But we’ll see. Musk is extremely good at navigating this kind of complexity.”

 

 

NBC didn’t bother to include any of that crucial context.

On ABC’s Good Morning America, chief business correspondent Rebecca Jarvis similarly touted the Bezos comment, though she at least provided slightly more context:

Musk’s longtime rival, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, was up tweeting about what this deal could mean. He asked whether China may have just gained some leverage over Twitter. Musk sells a lot of Teslas in China. Could China pressure him on Twitter? Bezos ultimately concluded Musk is extremely good at navigating this kind of complexity.   

Of course what was still missing was Bezos saying “probably not” to China co-opting Musk or Twitter.

Jarvis did remind viewers that Bezos threw around his own considerable wealth to buy up another media outlet years ago: “For comparison, Bezos spent about $250 million to buy The Washington Post. This is going to cost Musk $44 billion.”

Another key detail missing from the coverage on NBC and ABC was an examination of the significant business ties Bezos has with China. That includes the Chinese state-run publication China Daily paying millions to run an insert in the Post for years that spewed regime propaganda.

The fake news hype on NBC’s Today show was brought to viewers by Liberty Mutual, it was brought to ABC viewers by Disney. You can fight back by letting these advertisers know what you think of them sponsoring such content.

Here is a full transcript of the April 26 report on NBC’s Today show:

7:00 AM ET TEASE

HODA KOTB: Sold. After weeks of watching and waiting, Elon Musk reaches a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion. This morning, inside the world’s richest man’s plans to change the popular platform, the critics who call the move dangerous, and the looming battle of the billionaires as Jeff Bezos raises his own questions about the deal.

7:03 AM ET TEASE

KOTB: Meantime, reaction is pouring in to Elon Musk’s $44 billion takeover of Twitter.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos now raising some serious new questions about what it means for the platform and who might benefit, which countries might benefit. We’ll get into that just ahead.

7:06 AM ET SEGMENT

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Now to that major shakeup at Twitter. Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, is spending $44 billion to take over the popular social media platform. But what will the surprising buyout mean for tens of millions of users? NBC’s business and tech correspondent Jo Ling Kent taking a closer look this morning. Hi Jo, good morning.

JO LING KENT: Hey, Savannah, good morning. That’s right. Elon Musk, who already runs Tesla and SpaceX, is now adding Twitter to his mind-boggling portfolio. But news of the purchase has both supporters and critics concerned about Twitter’s future and what it could mean for your Twitter feed.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Inside Musk’s $44 Billion Twitter Deal]

Elon Musk is taking over Twitter to the tune of $44 billion. After weeks of corporate wrangling, Twitter’s board of directors accepting the billionaire’s buyout offer in a unanimous vote. Musk, who has been one of Twitter’s biggest critics, celebrating with rocket emojis, tweeting in part, “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy and Twitter is the digital town square.”

If approved by regulators, Twitter will go private and shareholders will earn over $54 in cash for each scare of common stock. So what is Musk going to change in your Twitter feed? He says he plans to add new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.

ELON MUSK: Well, I think it’s very important for – that it be an inclusive arena for free speech.

KENT: Other ideas on the table, charging users a small subscription fee and adding an edit button for tweets.

Some critics worry how Musk, who’s faced his own backlash over controversial and offensive tweets, will handle Twitter’s challenges with misinformation and toxic content. The ACLU raising concerns over a powerful central actor having so much control over the boundaries of our political speech online.

Rival billionaire and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also throwing shade at the deal, questioning whether China would gain more influence over Twitter due to Musk’s other company, Tesla, doing so much business there. The Chinese government has banned Twitter since 2009.

Musk burst on to the tech seen when he founded the company that would become PayPal. Later, selling it to eBay for $1.5 billion. He used those profits to start SpaceX and later Tesla. He’s still the CEO of both companies.

DAN IVES [WEDBUSH SECURITIES MANAGING DIRECTOR OF EQUITY RESEARCH]: Musk ultimately could be taking on more than he believes but it’s Musk and we all know he’s going to go to the beat of a different drum.

KENT: Musk does have plenty of supporters of course, including Twitter co-founder and the former CEO Jack Dorsey, he says he believes Musk is the right person to take Twitter into the future.

And another big question this morning, what will Musk do about banned Twitter users like former President Trump? Who was suspended last year. Some believe Musk may reinstate them in the name of what he calls free speech. But for his part, the former President is saying he has no plans to return. Savannah?

GUTHRIE: Alright, Jo, we’ll be watching. Thank you.

Here is a full transcript of the report on ABC’s GMA:

7:10 AM ET

ROBIN ROBERTS: Now to Elon Musk and Twitter. The Tesla founder says he wants to make the social media platform, quote, “better than ever after,” after the company agreed to his $44 billion offer. Chief business correspondent Rebecca Jarvis joins us now with what this huge deal could mean for Twitter and its users. Good morning, Rebecca.

REBECCA JARVIS: Good morning, Robin. And Elon Musk has almost 85 million followers on Twitter. He’s one of the most prolific tweeters on the platform and now that he’ll also be the owner, he says he wants to transform the company.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Elon Musk Set to Buy Twitter; New Reaction as Social Media Giant Accepts $44 Billion Offer]

This morning, Twitter accepting Elon Musk’s $44 billion all-cash offer to buy the company and take it private. The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and world’s richest person on track to be the social media giant’s new owner. Likely in the next six to nine months, pending the approval of regulators.

News of the deal met with shock, concern, and cheers across, well, Twitter. Musk tweeting he wants “to make Twitter better than ever,” adding that the platform has “tremendous potential.”

ELON MUSK: Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square.

JARVIS: 50-year-old Musk recently accumulated a 9% stake in the company and will pay $54.20 per share to buy the rest. Twitter’s stock closing up 5.7% at the end of trading Monday. Twitter founder and ex-CEO Jack Dorsey giving Musk his endorsement writing, “Elon is the singular solution I trust. I trust his mission to extend the light of consciousness.”

And overnight, reports of an all-hands meeting at Twitter, staff raising many concerns over their compensation and whether former President Trump will be allowed back on the social networking platform. Trump issued a statement shortly before the deal was announced saying he won’t return to the platform.

Musk has been open about his desire for free speech and to make Twitter more transparent. He signaled possibly bringing back banned accounts, kicking bots off the platform, and giving users an edit button, something he addressed at a recent TED Conference.

MUSK: I think, you know, you only have the edit capability for a short period of time and probably the thing to do upon the edit would be to zero out all retweets and favorites.

JARVIS: Musk’s longtime rival, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, was up tweeting about what this deal could mean. He asked whether China may have just gained some leverage over Twitter. Musk sells a lot of Teslas in China. Could China pressure him on Twitter? Bezos ultimately concluded Musk is extremely good at navigating this kind of complexity.

For comparison, Bezos spent about $250 million to buy The Washington Post. This is going to cost Musk $44 billion.

ROBERTS: There’s so many questions and we were peppering you with a lot during the piece.

JARVIS: And still a lot to be answered. He hasn’t gotten in there and met with the employees yet. So a lot of things can change when that happens.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We know you’ll be watching it. Thanks, Rebecca.  

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