Kara Swisher Grills Walter Isaacson About His Musk Biography: Did Your Approach ‘Absolve Him of Accountability?’


Kara Swisher dropped her highly anticipated interview with famed biographer Walter Isaacson on Monday and she pulled no punches in grilling Isaacson over the reporting in his latest biography on Elon Musk.

Swisher, a longtime tech journalist and insider who has become a staunch critic of Musk, didn’t have a rave review for the new biography ahead of their interview and pressed Isaacson about his perspective on Musk during the Monday edition of her podcast, On With Kara Swisher.

A portion of Isaacson’s book focused on Musk’s upbringing, his experience with bullying, and a tumultuous relationship with his father, Errol Musk.

Isaacson, who spent two years embedded in Musk’s life, wrote that he was regularly bullied at school:

For a long time, he was the youngest and smallest student in his class. He had trouble picking up social cues. Empathy did not come naturally, and he had neither the desire nor the instinct to be ingratiating. As a result, he was regularly picked on by bullies, who would come up and punch him in the face. “If you have never been punched in the nose, you have no idea how it affects you the rest of your life,” he says.

In her interview with Isaacson, Swisher said, “You use the word ‘manchild’ in the book. I have used the word adult toddler to describe Elon.”

The podcaster noted that although childhood does define a person, “Do you worry this framing of Elon as a child absolves him of the accountability he deserves as a 52-year-old man?”

“It doesn’t absolve him. So let me make that clear. And I think it’s clear in the book with many anecdotes,” Isaacson insisted, calling the situation complicated.

“When you understand a person, in other words, you try hard to understand, does that morph into a gray area where you’re trying to justify? I kind of try to understand the demons that dance around in his head. Does that justify him being an asshole to people? I hope I can say no. But part of the job of a biographer is to say, ‘I want to understand where all this is coming from,'” Isaacson explained.

Swisher said that Isaacson allowed many people he interviewed to cite Musk’s demons as reasoning for his behavior and actions.

“Every time I read one of them saying, ‘Oh, but it’s demons,’ whether it was Grimes or whatever, I’m like, get him to get therapy, for fuck’s sake,” Swisher said.

“You know — he doesn’t go to therapy,” Isaacson shot back.

“No, really? You’re kidding. You’re kidding. He doesn’t go to therapy. Well, these people continually make excuses. And one of the issues I have is they’re all paid by him,” Swisher said.

Listen above via the On With Kara Swisher podcast.

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