30th November 2023 – (New York) In a fiery interview on Wednesday, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk lashed out at advertisers who had abandoned X, formerly known as Twitter, due to concerns over antisemitic content. Musk, the CEO of Tesla, expressed frustration and defiance in response to the backlash he faced after agreeing with a user’s anti-Jewish post in a tweet on 15th November.
Acknowledging his error, Musk repeatedly expressed remorse during an interview at the New York Times DealBook Summit. He admitted that his tweet, which endorsed a user’s false claim that Jewish people were stoking hatred against white individuals, was possibly the worst he had ever made, despite his history of posting numerous “foolish” messages.
However, when confronted with the departure of advertisers from X, Musk dismissed the notion that they could blackmail him. In a profanity-laden outburst, he told them to “Go fuck yourself,” asserting that he cared more about the reality of goodness than its perception. He specifically addressed Robert Iger, the CEO of Walt Disney, which had pulled its ads from X, challenging him and any other advertisers attempting to leverage their financial power against him.
Musk’s expletive-laden response to advertisers abandoning X has left a lasting impression on the brands involved. Lou Paskalis, founder of marketing consultancy AJL Advisory and former head of global media at Bank of America, described Musk’s comments as the “closing chapter” for these companies’ business relationships with X. He emphasized that they would not forget the confrontation.
In defence of his companies, Musk urged critics to consider the quality of the products produced by Tesla and SpaceX. He asserted that his contributions to the environment, particularly through Tesla’s significant sales of electric vehicles, surpassed those of any other individual on Earth. Refusing to pander to public opinion, Musk emphasised his commitment to his company’s mission.
Musk’s controversial remarks coincided with a warning from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who highlighted the alarming rise in antisemitism during the Israel-Hamas conflict. Schumer described the situation as a crisis that threatened the safety of Jews worldwide and the future of Israel.
The White House condemned Musk’s post for its promotion of antisemitic and racist hate, adding to the mounting criticism he faced. Following the incident, major U.S. companies such as Walt Disney, Warner Bros Discovery, and NBCUniversal parent Comcast suspended their advertisements on X. The decision was influenced by a report from liberal watchdog group Media Matters, which revealed ads placed alongside posts supporting Nazism. In response, X filed a defamation lawsuit against Media Matters.
Musk’s comments have placed significant pressure on X as a whole, including Chief Executive Linda Yaccarino. Despite the turmoil, an executive confirmed that Yaccarino would remain with the company.
Acknowledging the potential financial failure of X due to the advertiser boycott, Musk attributed the outcome to the advertisers themselves. He expressed his willingness to accept the consequences and let the chips fall where they may.
In an attempt to address the controversy surrounding his post, Musk travelled to Israel and visited the site of Hamas’ assault. During a live-streamed conversation on X, he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Musk emphasized his opposition to antisemitism and anything that promotes hate and conflict. He reassured the public that X would not tolerate hate speech. As a symbol of solidarity, Musk received a symbolic dog-tag from the father of an Israeli hostage held captive by Hamas, which he vowed to wear until all the hostages were freed.
Musk’s wide-ranging interview covered various topics, including freedom of speech, the environment, and U.S. presidential politics. While he indicated he might not vote to re-elect President Joe Biden, he did not disclose his preference for Biden’s likely challenger, Donald Trump.