Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
Elon Musk is a “bulls**t artist,” Donald Trump bellowed to applause at a rally in Alaska this weekend. The former President made the remark in response to Musk’s recent comment that he had never voted for a Republican before a June special election in Texas.
Trump lashed out at Musk like a scorned lover, complaining to the crowd late Saturday, “He told me he voted for me.” He also used the rally to taunt Musk for the apparent failure of his plan to buy Twitter, bragging that he had predicted months ago that “Elon is not gonna buy Twitter,” gleefully adding, “Where did you hear that before?”
For weeks, Musk has expressed concerns, without any apparent evidence, that there are a greater number of bots and spam accounts on the platform than Twitter has publicly disclosed.
You might have thought that Trump would have focused his attention on the January 6 committee’s recent bombshells about his alleged effort to overturn the 2020 election, or his alleged role in setting the groundwork for the storming of the US Capitol that day.
Or that he might have been fixated on the eight hours of testimony given to the committee Friday by Pat Cipollone, his former White House counsel. Or that he might even have been fretting over developments in the Fulton County district attorney’s criminal investigation into his interaction with state election officials in Georgia after the 2020 vote.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Trump-Musk relationship was warm, complete with public displays of affection. In January 2020, Trump likened Musk to Thomas Edison, gushing that he’s “one of our great geniuses … and we want to cherish those people.”
The star-crossed billionaires chatted on the phone in May 2020 during the Covid-19 crisis, bonding over their shared desire to end shutdowns that saved lives in order to let businesses reopen. Then Trump threw caution to the wind when he tweeted his love for Musk’s idea to reopen his California Tesla plant despite Covid-19 restrictions. That prompted a smitten Musk to tweet in response, “Thank you!”
But fast-forward to earlier this year, and it felt like the two might be rekindling their relationship. After announcing plans to buy Twitter in April, Musk declared the next month that if the deal went through, he would allow Trump back on the social media platform, reversing the ban imposed after the January 6 attack. Musk has said that he thinks Twitter should be more “reluctant to delete things” and “very cautious with permanent bans.” In May, he called Twitter’s decision to ban Trump in January 2021 a “mistake.”
In the weeks that followed, Musk used Twitter to taunt liberals in a very Trump-inspired way. In May, he tweeted he had voted for Democrats in the past because they represented “(mostly) the kindness party.” But he added, “(T)hey have become the party of division & hate, so I can no longer support them and will vote Republican.” Then like Trump, he made himself a victim, writing in the same tweet, “Now, watch their dirty tricks campaign against me unfold.” And he added a popcorn emoji for effect.
That same month, Musk defended the very wealthy – like himself and Trump – tweeting, “Use of the word ‘billionaire’ as a pejorative is morally wrong & dumb.” And by mid-June, Musk seemed ready to take his relationship with Trump to the next level, declaring in a tweet that the ballot he cast for a GOP contender to fill an open congressional seat in Texas was the “first time I ever voted Republican.” He then predicted a “(m)assive red wave in 2022.”
But then Musk did something that, if this were a rom-com movie, would have caused the entire audience to gasp with the sudden awareness that trouble is brewing.
The mercurial Musk tweeted last month that when it comes to the 2024 presidential race, he was leaning toward supporting Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis – not Trump.
Meanwhile, the coy DeSantis responded that he’s focused on his 2022 gubernatorial reelection campaign – but didn’t feign disinterest in Musk’s possible backing.