C.E.O. of Tesla, Chief Engineer of SpaceX and C.T.O. of X Elon Musk takes the stage during the New York Times annual DealBook summit on November 29, 2023 in New York City.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images
Speaking at the 2023 DealBook Summit in New York on Wednesday, Elon Musk, the owner of social media site X (formerly Twitter), scoffed at advertisers leaving the platform because of antisemitic posts he amplified there.
“If somebody’s going to try to blackmail me with advertising? Blackmail me with money? Go f—yourself. Go. F—. Yourself. Is that clear?” Musk singled out Disney CEO Bob Iger in the audience, saying “Hi Bob!”
He also implied that his fans would boycott those advertisers in kind. “The whole world will know that those advertisers killed the company and we will document it in great detail,” Musk threatened.
He also told interviewer Andrew Ross Sorkin, “I have no problem being hated. Hate away.”
In recent weeks, Musk has promoted and sometimes verbally endorsed what the White House called “antisemitic and racist hate” on X, formerly Twitter, the social media platform he owns and runs as CTO.
He called those tweets, “one of the most foolish if not the most foolish thing I’ve ever done on the platform.” “I’m sorry for that tweet or post,” he added.
Musk’s inflammatory posts on the social media platform, among other things, have led large advertisers, including Disney, Apple and many others, to suspend campaigns there and drove some famous users to abandon the platform, including Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has denied that he is antisemitic, and said that on X, “Clear calls for extreme violence are against our terms of service and will result in suspension.”
He also traveled to Israel this week, where he met and spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When Netanyahu said he wanted to “deradicalize” and “rebuild” Gaza, Musk offered to help. Musk told Sorkin onstage that his visit to Israel was planned before his tweets, and were not part of an “apology tour.”
Previously, Musk had said he wanted to bring Starlink, the SpaceX satellite communications service, to the region and specifically to humanitarian organizations in Gaza.
Musk’s personal account on X currently displays a follower count of more than 164 million — though tech blog Mashable reported in August that a majority of Musk’s listed followers appeared to be inauthentic or inactive accounts.
Unions, China and OpenAI
Earlier Wednesday, the UAW launched campaigns aimed at Tesla and 12 other automakers in the U.S. Sorkin asked Musk what that means for his EV business.
Musk espoused generally negative views about unions and said they create a “lords and peasants” atmosphere at companies, and “naturally try to create negativity,” pitting workers against management.
He said, “Many people at Tesla have come up, gone from working on the line to being in senior management and there’s no lords and peasants — everyone eats at the same table.”
He added, “If Tesla gets unionized, it will be because we deserve it and we failed in some way.”
At one point, Sorkin asked, “Do you feel like anybody has leverage over you?”
Musk replied, “If we make bad products that people don’t want to use, the users will vote with their resources and use something else.” He also said that his companies are overseen by regulators. “SpaceX, Starlink, Tesla — are overseen by cumulatively by … a few hundred regulators because we’re in 55 countries,” Musk said.
Later, Musk said that he complies with nearly all the regulations levied upon his companies, but “once in awhile” he disagrees with a regulation and would object to it and disobey. “I’m incredibly rule-following,” he claimed.
Sorkin asked, “How do you think about the leverage that the Chinese have over you?” alluding to Tesla’s factory there and the company’s reliance on Chinese consumers for a significant portion of sales. Sorkin added, “Is it hypocritical for you to be doing business in China, or other countries, as it relates to X and other things that don’t follow this free speech path that you have espoused?”
The CEO replied, “The best that the platform can do is adhere to the laws of any given country. Do you think there’s something more we can do than that?”
On OpenAI and its recent boardroom struggles, Musk said he had talked to a lot of people but had not found out what precisely led to the recent firing and then rehiring of CEO Sam Altman. He also said he has “mixed feelings” about Altman personally, hinting that he feels like the OpenAI CEO has too much power. “The ring of power can corrupt.”
When it was founded, OpenAI’s original board included both Altman and Musk, but Musk left in 2018 after poaching a star engineer from the company to run Autopilot software engineering at Tesla.
Musk also said that he’s worried about the danger of AI harming humanity, and that he was “having trouble sleeping at night” because of it.
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