DeSantis on Elon Musk 2024 support: ‘I welcome support from African Americans’

Musk, the world’s richest man, had tweeted he is leaning toward supporting a potential DeSantis presidential bid in 2024.
Elon Musk tweeted that he is leaning toward supporting a 2024 presidential bid by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Musk has a history of donating to both Republican and Democratic candidates.
Elon Musk tweeted that he is leaning toward supporting a 2024 presidential bid by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Musk has a history of donating to both Republican and Democratic candidates. [ JEROME ADAMSTEIN | Los Angeles Times ]
Published June 15, 2022|Updated June 15, 2022

Gov. Ron DeSantis isn’t officially running for president in 2024, but he may already have the backing of the world’s richest man.

When asked on Twitter who Musk is leaning toward supporting in 2024, the tech billionaire responded with one word: “DeSantis.”

At a news conference in Madeira Beach on Wednesday, DeSantis brushed off a question about the news of Musk’s potential support with a joke.

“I’m focused on 2022, but I welcome support from African Americans,” DeSantis said. (Musk, who is white, is from South Africa.)

Musk, the top executive at Tesla and founder of SpaceX, has a net worth of more than $208 billion, according to Forbes. He has a history of backing both Democrats and Republicans for political office. In 2020, Musk supported Democrat Andrew Yang.

Although Florida’s governor has not officially announced his intention to run for president in 2024, he’s long been a rumored candidate. DeSantis’ gubernatorial reelection campaign did not respond to an emailed question about whether he would seek the presidency.

A slew of billionaires are backing the Florida governor’s political fortunes in the 2022 governor’s race, and possibly beyond. For example, Kenneth Griffin, the founder and chief executive officer of the investment firm Citadel, has given DeSantis’ political committee more than $10 million. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that at least 42 billionaires or members of billionaire families have backed DeSantis.

For a man so wealthy, Musk has a history of political donations in Florida that is relatively modest. Records show he’s never personally given to DeSantis, and he’s supported Republicans and Democrats in the past. In 2014, he donated identical $2,500 sums to each of the men who were running for governor that year: Democrat Charlie Crist and then-Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican.

Starting in 2007, Musk donated at least $5,000 to then-Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat. He gave Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz $1,000 in 2010. And he’s given Republican Sen. Marco Rubio at least $15,200 through the years.

Musk’s Florida ties have gotten stronger in recent years. Last year, he tweeted that he had spoken with DeSantis about digging tunnels under Miami to help improve traffic gridlock. (Engineers, some of whom note those hypothetical tunnels’ proximity to Florida’s aquifer, are mixed about that idea.)

Musk is in the midst of a bid to buy the social media firm Twitter — a move DeSantis has vocally supported.

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“@elonmusk’s offer to buy Twitter...raises the prospect that the platform will be a place where free speech can thrive, not a tool for narrative enforcement,” DeSantis tweeted in April.

Conservatives have long argued Big Tech companies like Twitter stifle right-wing voices. That criticism got louder after several platforms, including Twitter, banned then-President Donald Trump following the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol.

In May, Musk tweeted that his bid to take over Twitter had been put “on hold” while he awaits details on the number of spam or bot accounts on the platform. Later that month, Insider reported that Musk has been accused of propositioning a flight attendant on a SpaceX plane for sex. SpaceX allegedly then paid $250,000 to settle the misconduct claim, that outlet reported.

Musk vigorously denied the allegations of improper conduct, arguing they were linked to his pursuit to take over the social media giant.

“The attacks against me should be viewed through a political lens,” Musk tweeted in response to the Insider story. “But nothing will deter me from fighting for a good future and your right to free speech.”

Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau reporter Romy Ellenbogen contributed to this story.