A visibly irate Elon Musk said advertisers who pulled spending from X/Twitter, following his post that endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory, were trying to “blackmail” the company and threatened to drive it into bankruptcy.
Musk, currently the world’s wealthiest individual, had a message to big advertisers including Disney that halted spending on his social network: “Go fuck yourself… Go. Fuck. Yourself. Is that clear?” he said Wednesday at the New York Times’ DealBook Summit. He lambasted advertisers who were making themselves appear as if they were acting virtuously while being “evil.”
Earlier at the DealBook Summit, Disney CEO Bob Iger addressed the company’s decision to halt ad spending on X. “I have a lot of respect for Elon and what he has accomplished,” Iger said. However, given “the position [Musk] took, in quite a public manner,” Disney concluded that its association with Musk and X/Twitter was “not necessarily a positive one for us.”
Asked to respond, Musk said if a company like Disney “is going to try and blackmail me with advertising” they should not advertise on X. “Hey Bob, if you’re in the audience, that’s how I feel — don’t advertise,” said Musk.
Musk’s X is dealing with an exodus of major advertisers, including Disney, IBM, Warner Bros. Discovery, Sony, Comcast and NBCUniversal, and Lionsgate. Those marketers suspended ad spending after Musk endorsed a post on X pushing the antisemitic replacement theory, writing “You have said the actual truth” — which elicited a condemnation from the White House for his “abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate.” The advertiser freeze also followed reports by activist group Media Matters that found ads appeared next to pro-Nazi and white nationalist posts.
Musk, at the DealBook Summit, admitted, “I should have not replied to that particular person… I essentially handed a loaded gun to those who hate me,” calling it one of the “most foolish” posts he’s ever made on X/Twitter.
Musk said he clarified his remark in subsequent posts. He said his point was that persecuted groups funded by Jewish organizations were calling for attacks on Jewish people — a wholly illogical situation. “What I was saying was that it’s unwise to support groups that want your annihilation,” Musk said. He reiterated that he is not antisemitic and that, “If anything, I am philo-Semitic.”
Musk told DealBook’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, who interviewed the mogul on stage, “I have no problem being hated… hate away,” adding that it’s “a real weakness to be liked.” Musk, who was wearing a leather bomber jacket, said to Sorkin, “The only reason I’m here is because you’re a friend.” Meanwhile, Musk said his trip this week to Israel, where he was hosted by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was not “an apology tour.”
Last week, X filed a lawsuit against Media Matters, alleging the group was waging a “blatant smear campaign” against Musk and X using manipulated research. Media Matters called the lawsuit “frivolous” and said the organization “stands behind its reporting and looks forward to winning in court.”
In late October, just over a year after Musk closed a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter, X notified employees eligible for stock grants that they would receive shares at a valuation of $19 billion.
Musk, who also serves as CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and has a hand in multiple other businesses, is bullish on the future of X, which he wants to turn into “the everything app,” including processing payments and managing users’ “entire financial life.”
As the owner of Twitter, Musk among other things has overseen an 80% reduction in headcount; partially dismantled Twitter’s blue check-mark system designed to boost trust in the authenticity of notable accounts and now grants “verified” status to $8-per-month X Premium subscribers; and launched a test to charge users $1 per year to post to the platform (which he says is necessary to combat bots).