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Why does TikTok think Pete Buttigieg and Elon Musk are brothers?

Bruno Cooke August 13, 2021
pete buttigieg elon musk brothers
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A recent TikTok video claiming that Tesla founder Elon Musk and US secretary of transportation Pete Buttigieg are half-brothers – or are otherwise related – has been doing the rounds. Fortunately, not many people appear to be believing it, but for those who are…

Are Elon Musk and Pete Buttigieg brothers?

No. Elon Musk has two younger brothers, restaurateur and philanthropist Kimbal Musk and Passionflix co-founder Tosca Musk.

Pete Buttigieg, meanwhile, is the only child of Jennifer Anne Montgomery and Joseph A Buttigieg, a Maltese-American literary scholar. 

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Notably, Pete Buttigieg is a (very) distant relation of William I, aka William the Lion, of Scotland – but he is not a relative of Elon Musk’s.

Could they be half siblings, or cousins?

Elon Musk’s estranged father Errol and his mother Maye had three children together: Elon, Kimbal and Tosca.

Errol later fathered a child with his own stepdaughter, whom he knew from the age of 4. She is 42 years his junior – the Musk family reportedly went “berserk” upon hearing the news.

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Elon Musk has a large, and largely successful, family tree. Two of his cousins, Lyndon and Peter Rive, co-founded SolarCity; another, Russ Rive, founded SuperUber; Almeda Rive is a competitive dirt-bike rider.

However, Elon’s mother, Maye Musk, would have to have had another child, by another father, for Pete Buttigieg and Elon to be half brothers. She didn’t, so they aren’t. Or, alternatively, one of Buttigieg’s parents would have to have had a child by someone else – neither one of them did.

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If they were cousins, Christopher Child’s research into Mayor Pete’s cousins (in 2019) for family history website Vita Brevis would have revealed the connection. It didn’t; they aren’t.

Where did the claim originate?

The claim that Buttigieg and Musk were brothers – or half brothers, cousins or some other notable relation – appears to have originated on TikTok, before spreading to Twitter and elsewhere.

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In the context of Tesla not receiving an invitation to Biden’s clean-car event at the White House yesterday, the rumour picked up some traction.

However, given the lack of any evidence – and the well-researched family trees of both Elon Musk and Pete Buttigieg – it is unlikely to convince many, or anyone for long.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.