The arrival of the long-awaited Elon Musk biography by renowned author Walter Isaacson is entangled in controversy even before it reaches the reading public this Tuesday. A significant allegation made by Isaacson is now on shaky ground, casting a shadow over the impending launch.
In his manuscript, Isaacson recounts a dramatic episode where Musk supposedly disrupted Ukraine’s access to his Starlink satellite internet system in the midst of the country planning an underwater drone strike on a Russian fleet in Crimea. According to Isaacson, Musk ordered his engineers to turn off Starlink coverage within a 100-kilometer radius of the Crimean coast to avoid exacerbating the crisis into a potential “mini-Pearl Harbor” event or even a nuclear war. Consequently, the Ukraine’s drones lost connection near the Russian fleet in Sevastopol, rendering the attack mission a fiasco.
This controversial claim triggered a flurry of questions about Musk’s intervention in global affairs, turning him into a potential game-changer in Putin’s war. However, the storyline narrated by Isaacson turned out to be less absolute than originally reported. Musk, contradicting Isaacson, revealed that Starlink was not activated over Crimea and that he’d denied a “government emergency request” to turn the service on, directed to sink most of the anchored Russian fleet.
He substantiated his refusal stating, “If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation.”
In a surprising twist, Isaacson retreated from his provocative claim which had resulted in significant media traction. He clarified, “To clarify on the Starlink issue: the Ukrainians THOUGHT coverage was enabled all the way to Crimea, but it was not.” He restated Musk’s stance and added that the Ukrainians had requested Musk to turn it on for their drone assault on the Russian fleet. It seems that Isaacson erroneously inferred that the decision to keep Starlink off during the attack on Crimea was made during the onslaught, whereas according to Musk, this policy was already in place.
This miscalculation tarnishes the credibility of the biography and blemishes the esteemed reputation of Walter Isaacson, a lauded author famous for biographies on influential figures like Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein. He now confronts the disconcerting issue of rectifying his misinterpretation. Simon & Schuster, his publishers, confirmed that future versions of the book would omit the error.
News corporations are backtracking and updating their stories to correct this initially misrepresented narrative. The Washington Post, which had previously published an excerpt, issued a clarification, and CNN also modified its initial reporting in light of Isaacson’s subsequent backtrack.