Hours after reports surfaced Thursday that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk engaged in sexual misconduct with a flight attendant on a SpaceX-owned private jet in 2016, the prospective new owner of Twitter used the platform to deny the allegations as a politically motivated attack.
Business Insider published a detailed account of the incident on Thursday after viewing records and a signed declaration from a friend whom the flight attendant confided in shortly after the 2016 flight in question. According to the report, Musk allegedly “exposed his genitals” to the flight attendant during a massage in a private cabin of a SpaceX private jet during a flight to London.
Musk also “touched her and offered to buy her a horse if she would ‘do more,’ referring to the performance of sex acts.” She turned down the advance and continued the massage. “He touched her thigh … he basically tried to bribe her to perform some sort of sexual favor,” the friend told Business Insider.
The flight attendant brought the allegations to the attention of SpaceX human resources representatives in 2018 after she believed her shifts with the company, which were on a contracted basis, were being cut as a form of retaliation for spurning Musk’s advances. The company settled with her for $250,000 in exchange for her waiving the right to sue, with non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements attached.
Despite requesting more time to comment from Business Insider and saying there was “a lot more to this story,” Musk chose to go the social media route in responding to the allegations. He stated that the “wild” allegations made against him were “utterly untrue” before targeting the friend, calling her a “far left activist/actress in LA with a major political axe to grind.” He also challenged the friend to “describe just one thing, anything at all (scars, tattoos,...) that isn’t known by the public” as proof. “She won’t be able to do so, because it never happened.”
Musk also contacted the publication, calling the article a “politically motivated hit piece” and saying, “If I were inclined to engage in sexual harassment, this is unlikely to be the first time in my entire 30-year career that it comes to light.”
His attempt to frame the timing of the news and the revelations themselves as politically motivated followed similar tweets where Musk said political attacks against him would increase and called the Democratic party “the party of division and hate.” Those tweets were posted Wednesday, one day before the sexual misconduct allegations against Musk were published. An Insider editor said that those tweets were posted after the publication asked Musk for comment on the allegations Wednesday morning.
Musk’s Twitter-bound responses to the report continued over the weekend, ranging from him apparently soliciting lawyers for a Tesla “hardcore litigation department” to trading crude jokes referencing the allegations with YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley. “If you touch my wiener, you can have a horse,” Musk replied to Hurley.
All of this played out against the backdrop of major developments and questions regarding Musk’s purchase of Twitter. Musk said he put the deal “on hold” over questions about how Twitter determines the number of daily users that are spam accounts. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal addressed those claims in a Twitter thread to which Musk replied with a poop emoji. Despite Musk’s assertion, the deal has not been paused according to Twitter.
His stated motivation for buying the social media platform, protecting free speech, has also garnered scrutiny in the wake of the racially-motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y. earlier this month. Videos of the shooting circulated on various social media platforms, including Twitter, forcing the companies to continually seek out and delete posts that promoted the footage.
Some have posited that Musk’s characterization of free speech with no restrictions beyond what the law defines as illegal speech would allow footage of the shooting to be posted without moderation on Twitter. Twitter’s content moderation policies have been a frequent target for Musk during his push to buy the company, yet he has remained silent on if Twitter would remove content like the videos of the shooting under his helm. Instead, he tweeted about users being “manipulated” by Twitter’s algorithm just hours after the shooting occurred.