AUSTIN, Texas (TheStreet) -- I had an excellent seat for Tesla Motors (TSLA) founder, SolarCity (SCTY) Chairman and SpaceX CEO/CTO Elon Musk's keynote interview at the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin on Saturday.
This is my first SXSW. I wanted to go last year when Bruce Springsteen gave a keynote, but I couldn't make it happen. Musk received rock star treatment from the gaggles who showed up to watch him answer questions from TED curator Chris Anderson.
Something happened during Musk's Q&A that likely will -- from a comparative standpoint -- go largely ignored by the media. In the middle of Anderson's gushing over Musk's accomplishments (and, clearly, they're amazingly impressive) and his desire to land on Mars, Musk made comments about fatherhood that we would have immediately pulled as the front page headline had Yahoo! (YHOO) CEO Marissa Mayer dared utter them about being a working Mom.
We would have ridiculed Mayer without mercy -- as "we" did over her misunderstood and inaccurately reported work-at-home decision -- yet Musk gets a free pass.This merely reinforces the long-standing double standard I wrote about last week: If Marissa Mayer Was a Man We Wouldn't Be Talking About This. Right around the middle of the talk, Anderson pointed out that Musk has five children. Musk replied in the affirmative, saying that "kids are awesome" and everybody in the audience "should have kids." Musk then said, however, that he doesn't see his kids much, adding, "I do email while I'm with my children. And I keep a nanny around -- so they don't kill each other." He also made the absurd claim that his kids are at an age where they do not require his undivided attention. According to Musk, if he didn't multitask in this way with the help of a nanny, he "wouldn't be able to get [his] job done." As I write this Saturday night, this exchange is absent from both Forbes and The Wall Street Journal's accounts of the interview. While it's not possible for me to crawl the entire Web, I found only two sources who brought up what Musk said before I did: The always on-top-of-it Business Insider and the 100% spot-on Virginia Heffernan at Yahoo! News. This lack of coverage comes as no surprise. To their credit, both Business Insider and Heffernan were critical of Musk in their own ways. BI, for example, noted that the audience didn't take well to Musk's thoughts on how he interacts with his kids. And, it's true, you could feel -- though not really hear -- a groan in the crowd. I did notice a considerable number of people leave the room at this point, though I can't be sure it was because Musk turned them off. And Heffernan likened Musk's comments to his desire to be on Mars.
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