Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk Wednesday called statewide shelter-in-place orders that have shuttered his Fremont, Calif., factory and prevented a first quarter delivery record “fascist,” dropping multiple expletives and railing against what he called an infringement on individual freedoms.
Musk, on the company’s first quarter earnings call with journalists, unloaded on his state’s current order for people to remain in homes to halt the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 61,000 people nationwide.
“Frankly, I would call it forcibly imprisoning people in their homes against all their constitutional rights, in my opinion,” he said. “Breaking peoples’ freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong and not why people came to America or built this country. What the f—?”
Musk argued people shouldn’t be told to remain in their homes.
“This is fascist,” he said. “This isn’t democratic. This isn’t freedom. Give people back their g——- freedom.”
Earlier in the day, Musk tweeted “FREE AMERICA NOW.”
The billionaire, who could be eligible for stock option payouts approaching $750 million if the company’s stock continues to perform well, briefly defied state orders last month to close his plant as the number of infected patients rose significantly.
Despite the early resistance, Tesla’s U.S. manufacturing operations — the Fremont plant and a New York solar roof tile factory — have been idled since March 24. The automaker began informing employees in early April that it would furlough without pay all nonessential workers and cut salaries during the shutdown.
Tesla is working toward bringing workers back to the Fremont plant next week after backing off plans to recall some workers the last week of April.
Suppliers to Tesla face similar conflicts ramping up in time to supply the Fremont assembly line with parts and components despite stay-at-home orders in states such as Michigan.
As the virus spread throughout the country in early March, Musk tweeted that “the coronavirus panic is dumb.”