Newsom Makes Cringeworthy Joke About His Pension During News Conference with Musk


It turns out California Gov. Gavin Newsom makes Elon Musk feel the same way he makes most of us feel: uncomfortable and a bit peeved, from the looks of it.

Which was a surprise. After all, when the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX (and owner of Twitter, of course) was with Newsom at an event in Palo Alto, California last month, it was to celebrate the electric automaker’s new engineering headquarters in the Golden State. Surely, this was a moment where a potential Democratic presidential challenger shows his might.

Instead, Newsom pulled a Jeb Bush by asking for applause — and the most widely reported remark was a bad joke about having a pension.

As Musk noted at the top of the event, Tesla was taking over old Hewlett-Packard headquarters.

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“This is quite a transition from the company that founded Silicon Valley [Hewlett-Packard] to Tesla,” Musk said.

“We’re very excited to make this our global engineering headquarters, in California.”

And then, Newsom cut in, exclaiming: “Applaud, everybody!”

It was almost like a more energetic version of this iconic, infamous moment in American politics:

And jokes! Newsom’s got dad jokes!

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Musk noted that Newsom was one of the first customers for the Tesla Roadster, the company’s first vehicle — and he noted that he dropped a hefty chunk of change on it.

“Back when I had money,” Newsom quipped. The joke is that, as a public servant, the otherwise rich guv (his estimated net worth is between $18 and $22 million) has a salary that is a mere $209,747 — “considerably less than he made [as] a business owner,” as Bloomberg noted.

“Now I have a pension,” Newsom joked to Musk, the world’s second-richest individual at the moment. “So eat your heart out. So you don’t have to worry.”

Are you a fan of Gavin Newsom?

Because there’s nothing the electorate likes more than kidding around about how rich you are.

Musk could not have looked less impressed with the pension or the joke — and, truth be told, looked mildly disinterested throughout the event, at least compared with his usual animated self.

But what does this say about Newsom? Bad dad joke, Newsom copping a Jeb(!) Bush-ism, and a bland event overall.

It mostly got buried in the back of the business pages, when it was reported at all. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is that it wasn’t a big deal. Yes, we all know that President Joe Biden says he’s running in 2024 — although he sometimes can’t even stay fully awake as he insists he’ll be the likely Democratic candidate.

Therefore, it’s only natural to take a glimpse at the bench. Usually, the vice president would be the next one up, but Kamala Harris polls about as well as cold sores do.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was next on the depth chart, but he already had a lack of experience and accomplishments, as well as an inability to gain traction with minority voting blocs, before the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment and the Department of Transportation’s disastrous response to it.

Next up, inexplicably, seems to be Newsom. This is proof of why it’s time to start looking deeper down the depth chart list.

Elon Musk isn’t just the most famous businessman in the world right now, he’s also one of the most interesting and unpredictable celebrities there is, someone who can change the trajectory of the news narrative with a single tweet.

Not only that, Musk had criticized the Golden State in the past: “When Musk announced that he personally had moved to Texas in December 2020, he said California had become complacent and taken its success for granted. When Tesla followed suit 10 months later, he cited limits to how much the company could expand in the San Francisco Bay area,” Bloomberg noted.

So the California governor has the most interesting CEO in the world standing right beside him, eating a bit of crow. This is what Newsom ended up with: a snoozefest that barely registered, except for that insipid pension joke.

If this is all he can manage when he’s lobbed a softball like this, imagine what would happen to this empty-suited yuppie archetype if he were to ever take on the hardball task of a presidential campaign. Even Sleepy Joe looks good in comparison. That’s a scary thought, indeed.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture