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The White House considered tapping Elon Musk for a celebrity COVID-19 PSA, despite the billionaire repeatedly sharing virus misinformation

  • A White House document listing potential celebrities for a COVID-19 public-service announcement campaign shows that Elon Musk was one of 274 names considered.
  • It's not clear exactly which celebrities were approached, and Musk was listed as "pending," but some other celebrities are marked as "accepted" or "declined."
  • Musk, the CEO of Tesla, has voiced dissatisfaction with lockdown measures and posted misinformation about COVID-19 during the pandemic.
  • Others on the list included Beyoncé, George Clooney, and Morgan Freeman. Among the celebrities who declined were Dwayne Johnson, Hugh Jackman, and Britney Spears.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Tech billionaire Elon Musk was on a list of celebrities the White House considered for COVID-19 public-service announcement campaign, as revealed in documents obtained by the House Oversight Committee and given to Politico.

Musk's name appeared on a 34-page US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) document called "PSA celebrity tracker" dated October 23. The document lists 274 celebrities under consideration for the campaign, including big names like Beyoncé, George Clooney, and Morgan Freeman.

Alongside each name are notes about the celebrity's political affiliations and the demographic they're likely to appeal to.

Elon Musk is the only CEO to make the list, and his notes mark him as "pending answer." Under the notes about his political affiliation, the document says he: "Stated in 2018 that he was a 'registered independent' and classifies himself as 'half Democrat, half Republican.'"

What the document does not note is that since the early days of the pandemic, Elon Musk has railed against lockdown measures and even spread misinformation.

In July the billionaire claimed testing errors, rather than actual transmission of the virus, were largely responsible for a surge in reported cases. He was challenged by Columbia University virologist Angela Rasmussen, who said Musk was spreading "false and dangerous misinformation."

In March Musk tweeted that children are "essentially immune" to the virus, which is not true. Per the CDC: "While fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults, children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, can get sick from COVID-19, and can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others."

In April Musk tweeted lockdown measures were "fascist," and in May workers at Tesla's Fremont, California factory were told to go back to work despite the shelter-in-place order in force at the time.

Read more: The coronavirus pandemic is the best thing that has ever happened to Tesla's business

Musk tweeted in July 2018 that he was "registered independent [and] politically moderate." He endorsed Democratic candidate Andrew Yang in his bid for the presidential nomination this year.

It's not clear from the document whether all the names on the list were approached by the HHS. Many of them of them are listed as "pending" — although two, actor Dennis Quaid and singer-songwriter Marc Anthony, are marked green as "accepted" and 22 marked red with "declined."

Quaid reportedly later pulled out, per Politico. 

Among the celebrities who declined were Dwayne Johnson, Hugh Jackman, and Britney Spears.

Sources told Politico the campaign now won't run before the election, if it even runs at all. An HHS spokesperson told Politico the campaign is currently under review.

The $300 million campaign was originally pitched to "defeat despair" around COVID-19, but Politico reported that Michael Caputo, the top HHS spokesperson appointed by President Trump, reportedly tried to shift the focus of the campaign to: "Helping the President will Help the Country."

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