Elon Musk biographer says

Elon Musk biographer says

Elon Musk

  • Walter Isaacson still believes Elon Musk chose “the right person” in Linda Yaccarino to be X’s CEO.
  • The Musk biographer acknowledged the CEO’s rocky interview at Code Conference was “not a pretty sight.”
  • Isaacson said Yaccarino was “an impulsive hire” by Musk but “exactly what Twitter needs.”

Elon Musk’s biographer is still confident in the billionaire’s choice to name Linda Yaccarino the CEO of X, formerly known as Twitter — despite a rocky interview at Vox Media’s Code Conference.

Walter Isaacson, who shadowed the Tesla CEO for more than two years while writing a book about him, spoke Thursday about Musk’s decision to make Yaccarino, formerly the head of global ads and partnerships at NBCUniversal, the chief executive of X.

“He didn’t need another engineer,” Isaacson said at an event hosted by the Economic Club of New York. “He needed somebody who understood human emotions and advertising desires, and so Linda’s the right person, but even yesterday at the Code Conference, it was not a pretty sight. I guess I should be neutral, I shouldn’t care, but I’m actually praying for her to succeed because I like her and it’s exactly what Twitter needs.”

Isaacson added that it’ll be “interesting” to see X under her leadership and described her as “an impulsive hire” by Musk.

In Isaacson’s biography of Musk, which hit shelves earlier this month, he recounted how she came to be X’s top exec.

He wrote that though she had never met the billionaire before, Yaccarino arranged a private dinner with Musk and a dozen top advertisers after convincing him to let her interview him onstage at a Miami ad sales conference in April and proposed she run Twitter.

“We had a similar vision of what Twitter could become, and I wanted to help him, which led to me stalking him to let me interview him in Miami,” Yaccarino told Isaacson for the book.

X CEO seemed unsure at times, played defense during interview

Yaccarino’s appearance at Vox’s Code Conference on Wednesday quickly became the talk of X — with her performance drawing scrutiny and criticism.

Yaccarino spent much of the interview defending past decisions from Musk and seemed caught off-guard by what she called an “unexpected” appearance of former Twitter head of trust and safety Yoel Roth at the conference minutes before she took the stage.

Roth has said he was forced to flee his home and live in a temporary apartment due to the death threats he received after he was doxxed following comments Musk made about him on Twitter, as well as the release of the “Twitter Files.”

Speaking with tech journalist Kara Swisher, Roth shared his advice to Yaccarino for working with Musk: “You should be worried. I wish I had been more worried.”

“If not for yourself, for your family, for your friends for those that you love, be worried,” Roth added. “Look at what your boss did to me.”

Roth was billed as a surprise guest, but Swisher said Yaccarino was made aware of Roth’s appearance earlier in the day and was offered the chance to appear onstage before him. The X CEO decided to go on after his interview for the chance to get the last word in, according to Swisher.

When she later took the stage, Yaccarino addressed the elephant in the room: “I think many people in this room were not fully prepared for me to still come out on the stage, but here we are,” she said.

“Yoel and I don’t know each other,” she added. “He doesn’t know me. I don’t know him. I work at X. He worked at Twitter. X is a new company building a foundation based on free expression and freedom of speech. Twitter, at the time, was operating on a different set of rules as said by himself, different philosophies and ideologies that were creeping down the road of censorship. It’s a new day at X and I’ll leave it at that.”

Another awkward moment came when interviewer Julia Boorstin of CNBC asked Yaccarino if she was a “CEO in name only” given X’s reporting structure.

“As a result of the fact that the product team does not report to you — the product team at Meta reports to Mark Zuckerberg — because the product team does not report to you there has been speculation that you are in more of a COO role or a placebo role as CEO in name only,” Boorstin said.

“Yeah, not nice,” Yaccarino responded. “He runs technology. He leads a team of exceptionally talented engineers. I don’t care what the structure is at Meta, but who wouldn’t want Elon Musk sitting by their side running product?” she added.

Her remarks drew laughter from the audience, and though her question appeared to be rhetorical, a few audience members raised their hands, as Insider’s Bergman noted.

At other times in the interview, Yaccarino seemed unsure at what Musk had previously said about plans for a paywall on the social media platform and gave an answer contradicting a tweet from Musk hours prior saying X’s election integrity team was disbanded.

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