Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and owner of X, arrives for the Inaugural AI Insight Forum in Russell Building on Capitol Hill, on Wednesday, September 13, 2023.
Tom Williams | Cq-roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
First, Musk drew attention to and agreed with an antisemitic conspiracy theory, and then directly accused “Jewish communities,” the nonprofit Anti-Defamation League, and minorities of what he called “anti-white” messaging and views, without giving examples to support his accusations.
Musk — who is the richest person in the world, with a net worth of around $225 billion, according to Bloomberg — leads several companies that collectively employ around 150,000 people worldwide, including SpaceX, Tesla, The Boring Co., Neuralink, X Corp., and his latest venture, artificial intelligence startup xAI.
Musk, who has never reserved his social media posts for business matters alone, drew attention to a tweet that said Jewish people “have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.”
Musk replied to that tweet in emphatic agreement, “You have said the actual truth.”
In response to Musk’s tweet, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, “At a time when antisemitism is exploding in America and surging around the world, it is indisputably dangerous to use one’s influence to validate and promote antisemitic theories. #NeverIsNow.”
Among other things, the Jewish-led nonprofit works to fight antisemitic incidents, racist discrimination and hate crimes in the U.S.
After Musk began to face a backlash for endorsing the antisemitic tweet, he took aim more specifically at the ADL.
He wrote, without providing any evidence for these claims, “The ADL unjustly attacks the majority of the West, despite the majority of the West supporting the Jewish people and Israel. This is because they cannot, by their own tenets, criticize the minority groups who are their primary threat. It is not right and needs to stop.”
CNBC reached out to Musk and X Corp. for comments and to clarify which “minority groups” Musk sees as a “primary threat” to the Jewish people and Israel, but received no comment except an apparent auto-response message that said, “Busy now, please check back later.”
In subsequent tweets, after a follower told Musk he was not being fair or truthful, the billionaire replied, “You right that this does not extend to all Jewish communities, but it is also not just limited to ADL.” He added, “And, at the risk of being repetitive, I am deeply offended by ADL’s messaging and any other groups who push de facto anti-white racism or anti-Asian racism or racism of any kind. I’m sick of it. Stop now.”
Musk has posted incendiary tweets for a long time, and his companies, especially Tesla, have faced lawsuits over alleged civil and workers’ rights violations. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Tesla over alleged racist discrimination and harassment of Black workers this year.
Musk previously threatened to sue the ADL, alleging that they tried to “kill” his social network’s business. He has blamed the ADL, rather than his own business decisions, for a 60% drop in revenue at X and said he had “no choice” but to file a defamation lawsuit against the group. However, no lawsuit has yet materialized.
The ADL declined to offer further comment Thursday morning.
Hate crimes expert Brian Levin, who is a professor emeritus at California State University, San Bernardino, told CNBC that law enforcement is already tracking generational spikes in anti-Jewish hate crime in North America and elsewhere. He said, “Elon Musk piles on by amplifying neo-Nazi type Jew hatred about them being anti-white by invoking immigration, just as the convicted Tree of Life massacre killer did.” As a result, antisemitic incidents and crimes could spike further.
“Notorious antisemites are celebrating what they see as Musk’s complete conversion to blatant expressions of Jew hatred. When we saw similar rants from Ye last October, anti-Jewish hate crime spiked across the country,” Levin said.
Meredith Benton at Whistle Stop Capital told CNBC the move could affect Musk’s business interests.
“For Mr. Musk to amplify this type of rhetoric on Twitter, indicates his disinterest in turning that platform into a cash-positive business; I expect many corporate advertisers who had decided to stay on Twitter are now looking at their last straw,” Benton said.
“It appears, unfortunately, that the current leadership may be the source, not the solution, to the harassment and discrimination problems we have seen at Tesla’s factories,” Benton said. “Tesla investors (a majority in 2022, if you exclude Elon’s shares) have already made clear that they hold deep concerns over the allegations of racism and retaliation at Tesla factories alongside the company’s continued use of concealment clauses.”
“This will be a very interesting proxy season; there is no sideline for investors to sit on where a CEO decides to be this polarizing,” Benton said.
Clarification: A sentence in this article has been updated to unambiguously characterize some of Elon Musk’s tweets as bigoted.
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