Billionaire Elon Musk made headlines with his candid remarks to advertisers who have withdrawn from his platform, X, over concerns of antisemitic content.
A Moment of Contrition and Defiance
During a New York Times DealBook Summit interview, Musk initially expressed regret over his November 15 tweet, which concurred with an anti-Jewish post.
This rare moment of contrition from Musk, known for his often unfiltered and controversial statements, acknowledged the gravity of the backlash he faced. Musk admitted to having "handed a loaded gun" to both his critics and those with antisemitic views, describing his tweet as one of the worst in a series of many he deemed "foolish." This acknowledgment reflects a brief introspective pause in Musk's typically brash public persona.
Musk's Unapologetic Message to Advertisers
However, the Tesla CEO's tone shifted dramatically when addressing the advertisers who left X, formerly known as Twitter, over these issues. In a blunt message, he cursed them out, expressing his disdain for what he perceived as attempts to blackmail him with advertising or money.
This defiant stance was underscored by Musk's explicit comments directed at Robert Iger, chief executive of Walt Disney, which had pulled ads from X. Musk's disregard for the potential business repercussions of such high-profile withdrawals highlights his unwavering commitment to his own principles, regardless of the cost.
"If somebody's gonna try to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money?" he said. "Hey, Bob, if you're in the audience," he added, in an apparent reference to Robert Iger. "What I care about is the reality of goodness, not the perception of it.
And what I see all over the place is people who care about looking good while doing evil." Musk said. Linda Yaccarino, Chief Executive of X, in a post on the platform, affirmed Musk's apology and emphasized X's unique position at the intersection of free speech and mainstream business.
Her message aimed to reassure partners who believe in the platform's mission. "And here’s my perspective when it comes to advertising: X is standing at a unique and amazing intersection of Free Speech and Main Street — and the X community is powerful and is here to welcome you.
To our partners who believe in our meaningful work -- Thank You," she added.
The Fallout and Future of X
Musk's remarks signify what some industry experts see as the "closing chapter" for brands' association with X. Lou Paskalis, founder of AJL Advisory and former head of global media at Bank of America, suggested that this episode would leave a lasting impression on the advertising community.