Musk slams fleeing advertisers of X in profane rant

Leader of platform formerly known as Twitter accuses advertisers of trying to blackmail him by leaving site after his endorsement of antisemitic post

Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, said Wednesday an advertiser boycott of the site — triggered by an antisemitic post he endorsed — could kill it.

But Musk’s appearance devolved into the profane as he took aim at companies that have pulled their support in the wake of the controversy.

In a wide-ranging interview with the New York Times at its Dealbook Summit, Musk apologized and sought to explain remarks he made on the site, known as X, that endorsed the antisemitic Great Replacement Theory. But Musk also said advertisers would be responsible for the demise of the site if the boycott is successful.

Asked by host and DealBook columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin about the advertiser exodus, Musk responded, “I hope they stop. Don’t advertise.”

“If someone is going to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me for money, go (expletive) yourself. Go. (Expletive.) Yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is,” said Musk, who also leads Tesla and SpaceX.

He then called out Disney CEO Bob Iger, one of the advertisers that left.

“What this advertising boycott is going to do is it’s going to kill the company,” Musk said. “And the whole world will know that those advertisers killed the company.”

Musk acquired Twitter last year in a $44 billion deal that took the company private. Since then, Musk, who describes himself as a free speech absolutist, has removed guardrails designed to mitigate online harassment and restored the accounts of users previously banned from the site for violating terms of service.

He’s also made other changes that have damaged the site’s credibility, including a pay-to-play user verification system and removing verification from brands and notable figures. Critics contend the changes have led to a rise of hate-fueled posts on the site and raised issues of rampant disinformation flooding X in place of verifiable information sources.

Many advertisers in response have left the site. A recent report by liberal media advocacy group Media Matters also documented instances of advertiser content being placed near pro-Nazi content.

But a new controversy emerged earlier this month when Musk responded to an X user who espoused a version of the Great Replacement Theory, a bogus and antisemitic conspiracy theory that alleges Jews are secretly behind a plot with immigrants to replace white culture in the U.S.

In a Nov. 15 post, Musk replied, “You have said the actual truth.”

Since that post, the advertiser departure has accelerated, reportedly including major brands like Apple, Coca-Cola and Disney. Musk has sought to clarify his statement. This week he visited Israel to tour communities devastated by the deadly Oct. 7 attack by Hamas and met with Israeli leaders.

In his Wednesday conversation with Sorkin, Musk offered an apology.

“I am sorry for that Twitter post,” he said. “It was foolish of me. Of the 30,000 it might be literally the worst and dumbest post I’ve ever done.”

But that apology was quickly overshadowed by new self-inflicted controversy.

-The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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