Amid a growing advertiser exodus over antisemitism on his social media site, Elon Musk told advertisers he doesn’t want their money - in no uncertain terms.
“Go f--- yourself,” Musk said at the New York Times DealBook conference Wednesday, addressing the growing list of advertisers who have stopped spending money on X, formerly Twitter, over concerns that Musk himself was amplifying antisemitism and racism on the social media site. He appeared to specifically call out Disney chief executive Bob Iger, whose company is among those who paused advertising on X, saying, “Hi, Bob.” Iger had spoken earlier at the conference, but it was unclear if he was still in the room when Musk spoke.
“What this advertising boycott is going to do is to kill the company,” Musk said before a crowd of business executives and journalists gathered at the Lincoln Center in Manhattan; the conference was also streamed live online. If X does go bankrupt, the public will blame censorious advertisers, not him or his actions, Musk said, vowing not to bow to pressure from outside companies or critics.
“Let the chips fall where they may,” he said.
X has faced rolling boycotts from advertisers since Musk bought the platform a year ago and pledged to make it a haven for free speech, while firing most of the company’s moderation team. But when Musk responded to a user who blamed Jewish communities for bringing antisemitism upon themselves by saying “you have said the actual truth,” the departures gained steam.
In the interview, Musk said the comment was one of the most foolish he had ever made, and said he was not an antisemite.
Musk’s declaration came at the beginning of a wide-ranging interview in which he also spoke about his mental health, noted that he is often wrong and claimed that as the leader of electric-car maker Tesla, he has done more for the environment than “any single human on earth.”
He said he would not vote for President Biden and repeated previous comments that he was upset that Tesla had not been invited to the White House for discussions about electric vehicles. Deciding between Biden and former president Donald Trump would be “definitely a difficult choice,” he said.
Musk hosted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s announcement of his presidential candidate campaign on X, but has not yet specifically endorsed anyone for the 2024 election.
The interview skipped among topics, from politics, to artificial intelligence, to Musk’s own mental health. He said his mind “often feels like a very wild storm.”
He sidestepped questions about whether his massive wealth gives him special power in the world, and whether he is beholden to China because the country is an important market for Tesla. Asked if he thought TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media app, should be banned in the United States, he said he doesn’t use the app.
Earlier Wednesday, the United Auto Workers Union said it had plans to unionize Tesla workers. At the conference, Musk said he opposed unions because they created adversarial relationships inside a company.
“I don’t like anything which creates a lords-and-peasants kind of thing, and I think the unions naturally try to create negativity in a company,” he said. “If Tesla gets unionized, it will be because we deserve it, and it failed in some way.”