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November 28, 2023

What Musk’s latest antisemitic post is costing X—and Tesla

What Musk’s latest antisemitic post is costing X—and Tesla

Elon Musk’s endorsement of an antisemitic post on X has sent his businesses into a tizzy. From X (formerly Twitter) to Tesla, advertisers and investors are recoiling.

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“You have said the actual truth,” Musk wrote yesterday in response to a now-deleted X post that claimed Jewish communities support “dialectical hatred against whites.” In the aftermath, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz called on Musk to resign. The X leader was also removed from the speaker list at the 2023 APEC CEO Summit in San Francisco. And then there was the most tangible hit to the business: IBM and the European Commission pulled ads from X by this morning (Nov. 17).

Yesterday, X employees were inundated with calls from advertisers not just over Musk’s tweet, but also over an article from a left-wing advocacy group revealing that ads from major brands were appearing on X next to posts promoting white nationalist and Nazi perspectives, the New York Times reported. Meanwhile, Tesla shares fell 3.8% yesterday, and were down another 2% in early trading today.

X CEO Linda Yaccarino tried to do some damage control, saying that, “X’s point of view has always been very clear that discrimination by everyone should STOP across the board,” adding that X has been “extremely clear about our efforts to combat antisemitism and discrimination.”

But if that’s in fact X’s point of view, it certainly isn’t Musk’s. There’s been no remorse in way of an apology on his end. Instead, Musk doubled down on his stance, and has been replying to tweets criticizing his critics: He responded “Precisely” to a post talking about IBM’s brand deal in 1933, complete with a screenshot of paper discussing its ties to Nazi Germany.

Meanwhile, the American Jewish Committee, a US-based Israel advocacy group, called out the theory Musk propagated as “the deadliest antisemitic conspiracy theory in modern US history,” one that motivated the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shooting in 2018, which left 11 dead. “To amplify it on X is incredibly dangerous,” the group said.

Some argued that like rapper Ye (formerly Kanye West), who was booted off the platform for eight months for spreading antisemitic rhetoric, Musk should’ve gotten his account suspended. But don’t count on that happening on the Musk-owned platform, which has amped up all kinds of hate speech—antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-LGBTQ—under Musk.

Quotable: Musk’s post tugged at the last corporate straw

“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.”

Meredith Benton, founder of Whistle Stop Capital, to CNBC

Fallout for from Musk’s antisemitic endorsement, by the digits

$1 million: Advertising spending that IBM had committed to the platform for the last three months of the year, as per messages seen by the New York Times

3.8%: How much Tesla’s shares fell on Nov. 16, after Musk’s controversial post

420,000: Shares long-time Tesla investor Ryan Gerber holds in Musk’s EV company. “I’ve never had this with any company I’ve invested in, in my entire life, where the CEO does so many detrimental things that destroy the brand, because bottom line that’s what’s happening,” Gerber said after Musk’s post. “It’s absolutely outrageous, his behaviors and the damage he’s caused to the brand.”

$240 billion: The net worth of Musk, the world’s richest man, according to Forbes on Nov. 17

A non-exhaustive list of Musk propagating anti-semitic messaging on X

⚔️ Attacks billionaire financier George Soros, a frequent target of antisemitic conspiracy theories, claiming Soros “fundamentally hates humanity

⚔️ Boosts an antisemitic tweet from an account that pushes QAnon conspiracy theories and hate speech. His reply wasn’t hateful per se, but his willingness to engage with such posts would embolden others.

⚔️ Threatens a defamation suit against the Anti-Defamation League, a prominent Jewish civil rights group, alleging the group’s calls for advertisers to pause their spending on the platform were based on “false” accusations of rising hate that have financially damaged the company. Prior to that, he’d already started liking posts with the #BanTheADL hashtag and invited former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, whom the ADL called an “obvious antisemite” who should be deplatformed, to join X’s suit.

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