His profanity-laced remarks followed a moment of contrition in a New York Times DealBook Summit interview. Musk said repeatedly he was sorry for publishing a tweet on November 15 that agreed with an anti-Jewish post.
Musk has faced a torrent of criticism ever since he agreed with a user who falsely claimed Jewish people were stoking hatred against white people. Musk in his post said the user, who referenced the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, was speaking “the actual truth.”
On Wednesday Musk said he had “handed a loaded gun” to both detractors and antisemitic people, describing his post as possibly the worst he had made during a history of messages that included many “foolish” ones.
The Tesla CEO bristled at the idea that he was antisemitic and said that advertisers who left X, formerly known as Twitter, should not think they could blackmail him.
“If somebody’s gonna try to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money? Go fuck yourself,” he said.
“Go. Fuck. Yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is. Hey, Bob, if you’re in the audience,” he added, in an apparent reference to Robert Iger, chief executive of Walt Disney, which pulled ads on X. Iger spoke earlier at the event and said that Disney felt the association with X following Musk’s move “was not a positive one for us”. A spokesperson from Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“What I care about is the reality of goodness, not the perception of it. And what I see all over the place is people who care about looking good while doing evil. Fuck them,” Musk said.
Musk’s expletives against advertisers is the “closing chapter” for brands doing business with X, said Lou Paskalis, founder of marketing consultancy AJL Advisory and the former head of global media at Bank of America. “They’re not going to forget that,” he said.
Customers who did not like him should consider the products his company make based on their quality, Musk said, pointing to electric cars from Tesla and SpaceX rockets. “I will certainly not pander,” he said.
Musk added that he himself arguably had done more for the environment, at Tesla, than anyone in the world, based on Tesla’s massive sales of electric vehicles.
“It would be fair to say, therefore, as a leader of the company, I’ve done more for the environment than everyone — any single human on Earth.”
Musk’s comments came on the same day that US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned that the rise in antisemitism since the start of the Israel-Hamas war has reached a crisis point, saying it threatens the safety of Jews worldwide and the future of Israel. “To us, the Jewish people, the rise in antisemitism is a crisis. A five-alarm fire that must be extinguished,” Schumer said in an emotional, 40-minute Senate speech.
Musk’s post drew condemnation from the White House for what it called an “abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate.”
The “Great Replacement” theory falsely claims that Jewish people and leftists are engineering the ethnic and cultural replacement of white populations with non-white immigrants that will lead to a “white genocide.”
Following the post, major US companies including Walt Disney, Warner Bros Discovery and NBCUniversal parent Comcast suspended their ads on X. A report from liberal watchdog group Media Matters precipitated the advertiser exit, which said it found ads next to posts that supported Nazism. The platform filed a lawsuit last week against Media Matters for defamation.
Musk’s comments have put pressure on X overall, including Chief Executive Linda Yaccarino. An executive told Reuters that she would remain at the company.
Musk himself appeared resolved that X could fail financially and blamed advertisers.
“If the company fails because of advertiser boycott, it will fail because of an advertiser boycott. And that will be what bankrupt the company and that’s what everybody on earth will know,” he said. “Let the chips fall where they may.”
In the wake of the condemnation around his post, Musk travelled to Israel and toured the site of Hamas’ assault in the country on 7 October. On Monday, he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a live-streamed conversation on X.
Musk on Wednesday said the trip had been planned before his message and was “independent” of the issue.
Musk in Israel said he is against antisemitism and anything that “promotes hate and conflict” and stated that X would not promote hate speech. While there, he received a symbolic dog tag from the father of an Israeli hostage taken captive by Hamas, which he promised to wear until all the hostages were free. He wore the dog tag on stage on Wednesday.
“The fact that you came here speaks volumes of your commitment to try to secure a better future,” Netanyahu told Musk during the conversation in Israel.
Musk’s wide-ranging interview on Wednesday included discussions from freedom of speech to the environment to US presidential politics. Musk said he thought he would not vote to re-elect President Joe Biden but did not say he would vote for his likely challenger, Donald Trump.
Antisemitism in US a ‘five-alarm fire’ amid Israel-Hamas war, Senator Schumer says.
Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas; Additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Writing by Peter Henderson; Editing by David Gaffen and Lisa Shumaker for Reuters.