Big-money advertisers have pulled their spending from X after CEO Elon Musk called an antisemitic post on the platform "the actual truth," the latest in a series of controversies that has made the billionaire a polarizing figure online.
Musk told an X user last week that they "said the actual truth" after they claimed Jewish people "have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.”
The post, which comes after several high-profile antisemitic attacks in the U.S. amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, caused several advertisers including Warner Bros., Paramount Global and Comcast to temporarily stop spending on the platform amid reports of rising hate speech.
Musk early Monday morning tweeted his support to one X user who accused the advertisers of "sabotaging free speech" by pulling their spending and said they "control the narrative in this country as much as the media does."
The current controversy is just the latest in a series of eyebrow-raising posts on the site that have drawn negative attention to the SpaceX and Tesla billionaire, including in 2018 when he was sued after calling a diver helping to save a trapped boys’ soccer team from a flooded cave a "pedo guy"—Musk later apologized and won the defamation case against him.
That same year, Musk was charged with securities fraud, made to pay a $20 million fine and forced to temporarily step down as chair of Tesla's board of directors after a series of posts in which he said he would take Tesla private for $420 per share—a claim the SEC called “misleading” and "led to significant market disruption.”
Musk has also been called out for several sexist jokes on the platform, including when he said he’d start the Texas Institute of Technology and Science (for which TITS would be an acronym), and a discrimination lawsuit alleges he tweeted "Testosterone rocks, ngl" in the weeks following Tesla layoffs that disproportionately impacted women.
Last year, he compared Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Adolf Hitler in a tweet criticizing Canada's decision to sanction cryptocurrency wallets tied to trucking protestors who blocked some of the nation's border crossings.
Musk, who is the richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $241.1 billion as of Monday, has been in the public eye for two decades as the CEO of Tesla, founder of SpaceX and owner of Twitter, which he bought in 2022 and renamed X earlier this year. He has become famous for his out-of-the-box views—the father of 11 children has called population decline a "bigger risk to civilization than global warming"—and is quick to share his polarizing opinions. Walter Isaacson, who penned a Musk biography after shadowing him for two years, called the CEO's "enraging qualities" the reason for his success. The backlash from advertisers following Musk's support of the antisemitic tweet is just the latest issue he's faced since taking over the company. Many have been wary of his ownership since the beginning as he promised to loosen content moderation rules and researchers have said hateful and violent posts have spiked since the acquisition. Musk on Friday threatened a “thermonuclear” lawsuit against Media Matters, a left-wing advocacy group that pointed out the advertisers whose posts were appearing alongside antisemitic content. Media Matters responded by calling Musk a "bully" who is "from the free speech advocate he claims to be."
Billionaire Bill Ackman defended Musk on Sunday in his own post on X: "Musk is not perfect, but the world is a vastly better place because of him."