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Elon Musk apologizes for antisemitic tweet then launches foul-mouthed tirade against X advertisers

Musk says an advertising boycott in the wake of his bigoted tweets will probably kill the X platform but if that happens, it won’t be his fault

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Elon Musk, who owns X, Tesla and SpaceX, speaks at the Vivatech fair on June 16, 2023, in Paris.

Elon Musk, who owns X, Tesla and SpaceX, speaks at the Vivatech fair on June 16, 2023, in Paris. Musk said Wednesday, Nov. 29, that advertisers who have halted spending on his social media platform X, formerly Teitter, in response to antisemitic and other hateful material are engaging in “blackmail” and, using a profanity, essentially told them to go away.

Michel Euler, Associated Press

Elon Musk has been silent in the face of widespread criticism since agreeing to false and antisemitic claims made in a posting on X, formerly Twitter, earlier this month. But he broke that quiescence in epic fashion on Wednesday, apologizing repeatedly for his support of the bigoted post but then launching into a profanity-laden tirade against advertisers who have canceled or paused activity on the platform in the wake of the incident.

On stage at The New York Times-hosted DealBook Summit in New York on Wednesday, Musk responded to a question from New York Times financial writer Andrew Ross Sorkin who asked if Musk’s recent trip to Israel was an “apology tour” after agreeing with an X user who referenced the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory and falsely claimed Jewish people were fomenting hatred against white people.

Instead of addressing Sorkin’s question about the Israel trip, Musk instead went directly at X advertisers who suspended business after the antisemitic incident, saying “I hope they stop” advertising and “Don’t advertise.”

“If somebody is going to try to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money,” Musk said, then used a profanity to essentially tell them to go away.

He also included a “Hey, Bob. If you’re in the audience” comment in an apparent reference to Disney CEO Bob Iger who was a speaker at the event earlier in the day. Disney was among advertisers who suspended ads after Musk’s controversial X posting.

Musk also predicted that the advertising boycotts, which have include a slew of major companies in addition to Disney including Apple, IBM, Warner Brothers and others, would lead to the demise of X, which Musk acquired in a $44 billion deal last year.

“What this advertising boycott is gonna do is it’s gonna kill the company,” Musk said. “And the whole world will know that those advertisers killed the company. And we’ll document it in great detail.”

Sorkin rebutted Musk’s comment, pointing out that X advertisers will likely argue that Musk himself killed the company by saying things that were inappropriate on the platform and that’s what led to the advertising boycott.

“Let’s see how Earth responds to that,” Musk said. “We’ll both make our cases and see what the outcome is.”

On Nov. 15, Musk responded to an X posting claiming Jewish communities “have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.”

Musk’s tweet in response to the posting was, “You have said the actual truth.”

At the Wednesday New York Times event, Musk said the tweet was the worst, among tens of thousands, he’d ever posted.

“I mean, look, I’m sorry for that … post,” Musk said, per CNN. “It was foolish of me. Of the 30,000 it might be literally the worst and dumbest post I’ve ever done. And I’ve tried my best to clarify six ways from Sunday, but you know at least I think it’ll be obvious that in fact far from being antisemitic, I’m in fact philosemitic.”

While Musk dodged Sorkin’s initial question about the nature of Musk’s recent trip to Israel, the tech billionaire later said that “it wasn’t an apology tour.” While in Israel, Musk reportedly visited with family members of Israeli hostages being held by Hamas and also had meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog.

In September, Musk claimed reports about rising levels of hate speech on the X social media platform were false, including tracking and analysis by the Anti-Defamation League, and threatened to sue the group that battles intolerance and antisemitism in a series of tweets.

Musk claimed the civil rights watchdog group had been “trying to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic” since the Tesla and SpaceX CEO acquired the platform last October. Musk also alleged that X’s precipitous decline in advertising revenue has been “primarily due to pressure on advertisers by @ADL” and said the claim is based on “what advertisers tell us.”

The hashtag campaign #BanTheADL was trending on X around the time of Musk’s threat to sue the organization and the ADL accused Musk of “lifting” the effort through liking and engaging with tweets carrying the hashtag.

“ADL is unsurprised yet undeterred that antisemites, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists and other trolls have launched a coordinated attack on our organization. This type of thing is nothing new,” an Anti-Defamation League spokesperson said in September.