Tech billionaire Elon Musk faced a third day of backlash Friday from Jewish leaders, the White House and media giants including Disney and Apple after embracing an anti-conspiracy theory earlier in the week, the latest pattern in his anti-communist approach. Anti-Semitism from the past years.
Musk drew criticism for six words he wrote Wednesday afternoon on X, the social media app he bought last year. Responding to another user who had accused Jews of hating white people and expressed disdain for anti-Semitism, Musk wrote: “You spoke the real truth.”
Musk, CEO of automaker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, followed his first tweet by criticizing the Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, an organization founded by Jews to oppose antisemitism. Musk has been at loggerheads with the ADL for months over its efforts to reduce extremism on social media, a campaign Musk says cost X’s ad sales.
On Thursday morning, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, said Musk was acting in a dangerous way.
“At a time when antisemitism is exploding in America and growing worldwide, it is undoubtedly dangerous to use one’s influence to validate and promote anti-Semitic ideology,” he said. wrote to Xwith a screenshot of Musk’s six-word tweet.
The White House added to its criticism on Friday as the dispute continued, saying Musk had incited “racist hatred and bigotry” against “our core values as Americans.”
Accounts with a history of supporting anti-Semitic views celebrated Musk’s tweet as welcome news and as confirmation that he agrees with them on “JQ,” short for “Jewish Question,” a term used by antisemites for decades.
“This is old anti-Semitism with new language,” said AJ Bauer, an assistant professor of journalism who studies right-wing movements and the media at the University of Alabama.
Musk announced a content policy Friday that was adopted by the ADL, saying X will suspend accounts that use the phrase “from the river to the sea.” The word is popular among many Palestinians, while many Jews say the word means the end of Israel.
But otherwise, Musk was coy about his comments earlier in the week. His Wednesday tweets were still online, and on Friday, he tweeted that free speech is at risk and that it will not be suppressed.
“I stick to my principles!” replied one user.
“As for any propaganda groups that want to stifle free speech, they should remember that karma is real,” he added.
A representative for X did not immediately respond to a request for an interview Friday.
IBM said on Thursday it had pulled its ads from X. A recent investigation by the progressive organization Media Matters found that ads from IBM and other companies were running X alongside pro-Nazi material.
“IBM has zero tolerance for hate speech and discrimination and we have immediately suspended all advertising on X while we investigate this completely unacceptable situation,” the company said in a statement. An IBM representative added that the company was investigating the Media Matters report, not Musk’s post specifically.
The Walt Disney Company is also halting spending on X, according to a source with direct knowledge. Its decision was previously reported by the New York Times. Two other media companies, Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery, representatives said late Friday that they were also on hold for a while.
Comcast and NBCUniversal are also holding back on advertising in the X area, a spokeswoman said Friday. (Comcast owns NBCUniversal, which is the parent company of NBC News.)
Apple is also involved in marketing for the X, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC.
The European Commission has decided to stop advertising on X because of concerns about disinformation, Politico reported Friday. A spokesman for the commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.
Linda Yaccarino, CEO of X, said on stage Thursday that racism and discrimination are unacceptable, although he did not directly address Musk’s tweets or IBM’s move.
“When it comes to this platform – X has also been very clear about our efforts to fight racism and discrimination. There is no place for you in the whole world — it is bad and wrong. Full stop,” he wrote. UX also said in an email that the Media Matters investigation was flawed, in part because the ads were designed to follow people as they browsed the site, so the researcher saw the same ads multiple times in ways that others might not.
Musk defended his past tweets in an interview with CNBC in May, saying he is a “prosemite,” not an antisemite.
Musk’s latest comments come at a difficult time for Jews around the world and in Israel. Reports of antisemitic incidents in the US rose 388% after the Hamas terror attack last month compared to the same period last year, according to the ADL. This week, the Biden administration announced an effort to reduce antisemitism and Islamophobia.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, director of international sociology for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization named after the famed Nazi hunter, said he was surprised by Musk’s use of X.
“I don’t understand why Elon Musk, even if it’s his toy, would jump to this kind of statement, no matter what his motivation is, which involves him with big people,” he said.
“I almost felt like he was saying, ‘Grow up,'” he added.
Experts who study antisemitism and other extremism say Musk has been making baseless claims for decades about Jewish cooperation at the expense of others.
“Not only is there no evidence; these have been vilified over and over again,” said Matthew Hughey, a professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut who has studied white supremacy.
Musk has 163 million followers on X, more than anyone else, so what he posts can have a real impact on the real-world actions of others, Hughey added.
“We should expect to see more hate crimes and gatherings around these kinds of expressions because of his proliferation,” he said.
Musk’s tweet was the third post in a string involving other people. The first post, made by a self-identified Jew from South Florida, was a video criticizing online anti-Semitism. She said: “Is there something you want to say? Why don’t you say it to our face.”
A second person then jumped on board with a multi-layered conspiracy theory framework sometimes known as the “grand revolution theory,” advanced by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, among others. The person said that Jewish communities have been suppressing “white hatred” and that Jews are supporting the “flooding” of the US by “masses of minorities.”
The person wrote that he “couldn’t care less” about the “western Jews” now facing threats, to which Musk replied, “You spoke the real truth.”
By Friday, Musk’s tweet had received 6.7 million views on X, according to the site’s view counter.
Musk has a long history of promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories. In 2018, he tweeted: “Who do you think *runs* the media? Hello”; between the following tweet in response to accusations of anti-Semitism at the time, he said he was speaking “only to powerful people.” Last year, he tweeted a picture of Adolf Hitler as part of a joke and welcomed rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, on social media despite Ye’s negative comments.
Pointing out to aspiring journo & Rodin spokesmodel, Josh Top, who thinks public polls are controlled by “powerful people” that the media is *owned* by same. Anyone who thought this was anti-Semitic is just revealing their inner bigot. The context is very clear.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 28, 2018
“Elon Musk has been making antisemitic comments on Twitter and in other formats for years,” said Bauer, of the University of Alabama.
“If someone tells you who you are, you have to listen, and they have been telling us for a long time that you are someone who is not a person who is not a person,” he said.