Biden ignores Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s poor economic sentiment, touts Ford

President Joe Biden delivers remarks after touring the Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S. May 18, 2021.

Leah Millis | Reuters

President Joe Biden brushed aside Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s “super bad sentiment” about the US economy on Friday, while praising some of Musk’s competitors for increasing their investments in electric vehicles.

Biden then cast a dismissive glance at Musk, a frequent critic of his administration. “Much luck on his trip to the moon,” Biden said of the SpaceX founder.

The president had been asked about Musk after a speech in Delaware touting the strong jobs report released earlier on Friday. The Labor Department found that the US economy added 390,000 jobs in May, a better-than-expected figure, while the unemployment rate held steady at a low 3.6%.

Musk, meanwhile, told executives in an email on Thursday that he had a “super bad feeling” about the economy and that he would have to cut 10% of Tesla’s jobs, according to Reuters. Tesla shares fell on Friday.

Asked about the sentiment reported by Musk, Biden praised Ford and Stellantis.

“Well, let me tell you, while Elon Musk is talking about this, Ford is massively increasing its investment,” Biden said as he pulled a note card from his jacket pocket.

“I think Ford is increasing investment in building new electric vehicles, 6,000 new employees, unionized employees, I might add, in the Midwest,” he said, adding that “the former Chrysler company, Stellantis is also making similar investments in electric vehicles.”

Biden also noted Intel’s plans to add 20,000 new jobs as part of an investment in Ohio.

“So, you know, good luck with his trip to the moon,” Biden said with a wave.

Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But minutes after Biden’s remark, Musk tweeted “Thank you Mr. President!” accompanied by a April 2021 press release from NASA announcing that SpaceX, Musk’s rocket travel company, had been selected to land the next Americans on the moon.

Musk, one of the richest people in the world, is in the middle of a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion. He has recently started sharing more politically charged tweets, including a post last month bashing Democrats and vowing to vote Republican.

The president’s rebuke marked the latest sticking point with Musk, who has openly criticized both the White House and Biden himself.

In March, Musk bristled after Biden’s State of the Union address applauded efforts by Ford and General Motors on electric vehicles while failing to mention Tesla.

“Nobody is monitoring the State of the Union,” Musk said in an email to CNBC.

Two months later, Musk called the Biden administration ineffective and said “the real president is the one who controls [Biden’s] teleprompter.”

A Biden spokesperson fired back, “We’re not surprised that an anti-worker billionaire is looking for any opportunity to nip the heels of the most pro-union, pro-worker president in modern history.”

CNBC’s Brian Schwartz contributed to this report.

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