SAN FRANCISCO – Tech billionaire Elon Musk faced backlash from some Jewish leaders and at least one advertiser on Thursday after he again embraced an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, the latest in a pattern of his anti-Jewish bigotry stretching back years.
Musk unleashed criticism with six words he posted Wednesday afternoon on X, the social media app he bought a year ago. In response to another user who had accused Jews of hating white people and who had expressed indifference toward anti-Semitism, Musk wrote: “You have told the real truth.”
Musk, CEO of automaker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, followed his first tweet with criticism of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization founded by Jews to oppose anti-Semitism. Musk has been fighting with the ADL for months for his efforts to reduce extremism on social media, a campaign that Musk says has cost him X advertising sales.
On Thursday morning, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of ADL, said Musk was acting dangerously.
“At a time when anti-Semitism is exploding in the United States and increasing around the world, it is unquestionably dangerous to use one’s influence to validate and promote anti-Semitic theories,” he said. wrote in Xwith a screenshot of Musk’s six-word tweet.
Stories with a history of espousing anti-Jewish views celebrated Musk’s tweet as good news and confirmation that he agrees with them “on the JQ,” short for “Jewish question,” a term used by antisemites for decades.
“This is old-fashioned anti-Semitism with new lingo,” said AJ Bauer, an assistant professor of journalism who studies right-wing movements and media at the University of Alabama.
IBM said on Thursday that it had pulled its ads from X. A recent investigation by the progressive organization Media Matters found that advertisements from IBM and other corporations They ran in X next to 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 totally unacceptable situation,” the company said in a statement. An IBM representative added that the company was investigating the Media Matters report, not Musk’s posts specifically.
Linda Yaccarino, CEO of
“In regards to this platform, X has also been extremely clear about our efforts to combat anti-Semitism and discrimination. There is no place for it anywhere in the world: it is ugly and wrong. Final point” she wrote. X also said in an email that Media Matters’ research was flawed, in part because the ads are designed to follow people as they navigate the site, so the researcher saw the same ads multiple times in a way others they couldn’t see.
As of late Thursday, Musk had not addressed the backlash and his tweets were still online. Emails sent to X seeking comment were not immediately returned.
Musk defended his previous tweets in an interview with CNBC in Maysaying that he is a “pro-semite”, not an anti-semite.
Musk’s latest comments came at a tense time for Jews around the world and in Israel. Reports of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States increased 388% after the Hamas terrorist attacks 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 global social action at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization named after the famous Nazi hunter, said he was baffled by the way Musk uses X.
“I don’t understand why Elon Musk, even though it’s his toy, would launch this type of statement, whatever his motivation, that further engages him with fans,” he said.
“I almost feel like telling him: ‘Grow up,’” he added.
Experts who study anti-Semitism and other extremism said Musk was parroting decades-old baseless claims about Jews colluding with each other at the expense of others.
“Not only is there no evidence; these have been debunked time and time again,” said Matthew Hughey, a sociology professor 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 actions of others in the real world, Hughey added.
“We should expect to see more hate crimes and mobilizations around this type of speech because of its amplification,” he said.
Musk’s tweet was the third post in a thread involving other people. The initial post, by a self-described Jewish conservative from South Florida, was a video condemning online anti-Semitism. He would say, “Do you have anything you want to say? Why don’t you tell us to our faces?
The second person then chimed in with a multi-paragraph summary of a conspiracy theory sometimes known as “great replacement theory,” which has been amplified by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, among others. This person said that Jewish communities have been fueling “anti-white hate” and that Jews support “flooding” the United States with “hordes of minorities.”
The person wrote that he was “deeply disinterested” in “Western Jewish populations” who now face threats, to which Musk responded: “You have told the real truth.”
Musk has a long history of amplifying anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. In 2018, he tweeted: “Who do you think *owns* the press? Hello”; in a follow up tweet In response to accusations of anti-Semitism at the time, he said he was referring only to “powerful people.” Last year, she tweeted a photo of Adolf Hitler as part of an apparent joke and welcomed back rapper Yeformerly known as Kanye West, to social media despite Ye’s anti-Semitic comments.
“Elon Musk has been making anti-Semitic comments on Twitter and in other formats for many, many years,” said Bauer, of the University of Alabama.
“When someone tells you who he is, you should listen to him, and he has been telling us for a long time that he is an anti-Semite,” he said.