An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Elon Musk is Time's 2021 Person of the Year

Tesla head Elon Musk talks to the press as he arrives to to have a look at the construction site of the new Tesla Gigafactory near Berlin last year.
Maja Hitij
Getty Images
Tesla head Elon Musk talks to the press as he arrives to to have a look at the construction site of the new Tesla Gigafactory near Berlin last year.

Elon Musk has been named Time's 2021 Person of the Year.

Musk, the richest person on Earth, is the CEO of the aerospace company SpaceX and electronic car company Tesla.

Time gives the title to the person it sees as having the most influence during the past year. It has described the title as going to "the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse."

"I admire anyone who is making a positive contribution to humanity, whether that is in entertainment or technology," Musk told Time. "I think anyone who is doing things that are really useful for the rest of humanity, I admire them greatly."

Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal described Musk as "a person with extraordinary influence on life on Earth, and potentially life off earth too."

In April, SpaceX won a $2.9 billion contract with NASA to build a moon lander for astronauts, beating out Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin. In September, SpaceX launched the first all-civilian crew to orbit earth.

Musk hosted Saturday Night Live this year, where he said he was the "first person with Asperger's to host SNL. Or at least the first to admit it." He is known to be vocal — and controversial — on Twitter, and has over 66 million followers.

Recently, he has come under fire for hurling a vulgar insult on the platform at Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, Ore., who supports a so-called billionaires tax. Wyden has been working on legislation that would force billionaires to pay taxes when stocks go up, regardless if they keep or sell the shares.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Musk also spread misinformation to his legions of Twitter followers. He downplayed the threat of the virus, and in 2020, rushed to reopen a Tesla plant in the Bay Area, leading to hundreds of new coronavirus cases.

In March, the National Labor Relations Board ordered Musk to delete a 2018 anti-union tweet that it says was threatening to labor organizers, and ordered him to re-hire a union advocate who'd been fired.

Last year, Time gave the title to President Biden and Vice President Harris, several weeks after their electoral victory. Other recent winners include climate activist Greta Thunberg, and Jamal Khashoggi and a group of journalists collectively called "the guardians."

Tien Le is an intern on NPR's News Desk.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit

Tien Le
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.