In the wake of Elon Musk’s endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory earlier this week, the tech billionaire faced a third day of criticism from Jewish leaders, the White House, and major media advertisers such as Disney, Apple, IBM, Paramount Global, Warner Bros. Discovery, Comcast, and NBCUniversal.
Musk’s controversial post on X, the social media app he acquired a year ago, triggered the backlash. Responding to a user’s accusation against Jews and their alleged indifference to antisemitism, Musk wrote, “You have said the actual truth.” This marked another instance in Musk’s history of echoing anti-Jewish sentiments.
The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX continued to escalate tensions by criticizing the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), with whom he has been feuding for months over efforts to combat extremism on social media. Musk’s tweets drew condemnation from the ADL’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, who characterized Musk’s actions as dangerously validating antisemitic theories.
The White House joined the criticism on Friday, denouncing Musk for promoting “antisemitic and racist hate” that goes against American core values. Accounts with a history of espousing anti-Jewish views celebrated Musk’s tweet, considering it as confirmation that he aligns with their beliefs on the “Jewish question.”
Musk, however, remained defiant, asserting that free speech was at stake and announcing a content policy on X that would suspend accounts using the phrase “from the river to the sea.” While this move was welcomed by the ADL, Musk did not retract or delete his earlier tweets.
In response to the controversy, IBM announced the suspension of its advertisements on X, citing a Media Matters investigation that found ads running alongside pro-Nazi material. Other major corporations, including The Walt Disney Company, Paramount Global, Warner Bros. Discovery, Comcast, and NBCUniversal, followed suit, pausing their spending on X. Apple also decided to hold off on advertising on the platform.
Despite the growing advertiser boycott, Musk remained steadfast in his position, asserting his commitment to principles and warning against the suppression of free speech by “fake advocacy groups.” The European Commission also decided to stop advertising on X due to concerns about disinformation. As the controversy unfolded, X’s CEO, Linda Yaccarino, acknowledged that antisemitism and discrimination are unacceptable but did not directly address Musk’s tweets or IBM’s actions.
In addressing the situation on X, the platform’s statement emphasized its strong stance against antisemitism and discrimination, asserting that such behavior is unacceptable globally. They dismissed the Media Matters’ investigation as flawed, citing the design of ads to follow users, potentially leading to skewed perceptions due to repeated exposure.
Elon Musk defended his past tweets in a CNBC interview, identifying himself as a “prosemite” rather than an antisemite. However, his recent comments, amid a surge in antisemitic incidents globally and in Israel, have drawn significant criticism. Reports indicate a 388% increase in antisemitic incidents in the U.S. following recent terrorist attacks by Hamas.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, expressed bewilderment at Musk’s involvement with X and urged him to mature in handling such matters. Experts studying antisemitism noted Musk’s repetition of baseless claims about Jewish collusion, emphasizing the lack of evidence and the debunking of such theories.
With 163 million followers on X, Musk’s influence was highlighted, with concerns raised about the potential real-world impact of his statements. Experts warned that the amplification of such discourse could contribute to an increase in hate crimes.
Musk’s latest tweet, part of a thread involving other users, garnered 6.7 million views on X by Friday. This incident is not isolated, as Musk has a history of promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories on social media, including tweets in 2018 and last year.
In response to Musk’s behavior, A.J. Bauer from the University of Alabama emphasized that Musk has been consistently expressing antisemitic views, urging people to take heed when individuals reveal their true beliefs.