Elon Musk has apologised for endorsing an antisemitic conspiracy theory, admitting it may have been “literally the worst and dumbest post I’ve ever done”.
The apology came amid a fiery rant against advertisers who have stopped promoting on his social media platform X.
The advertising row, which has seen Disney and Warner Bros pull their ads, could spell the end for the site formerly known as Twitter – Musk has admitted as much himself.
Here’s what the world’s richest man said to trigger the advertiser exodus and a look at some of his other divisive moments since his $44bn X takeover in 2022.
November 2023 – Promoting an antisemitic conspiracy theory
The Tesla chief agreed with a post on X 16 November that falsely claimed Jewish people were stoking hatred against white people, saying the user who referenced the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory was speaking “the actual truth”.
That conspiracy theory holds that Jewish people and other minorities are engineering the ethnic and cultural replacement of white populations with non-white immigrants that will lead to a “white genocide”.
He has since admitted that the post was “foolish of me”.
Speaking on stage at the New York Times DealBook summit on Wednesday, he said: “I mean, look, I’m sorry for that … post.
“It was foolish of me. Of the 30,000 it might be literally the worst and dumbest post I’ve ever done.
“And I’ve tried my best to clarify six ways from Sunday, but you know at least I think it’ll be obvious that in fact far from being antisemitic, I’m in fact philosemitic.”
His comments came shortly after Musk visited Israel, where he toured a kibbutz attacked by Hamas militants and held talks with top leaders.
Adding fuel to the ‘Pizzagate’ fire
You don’t need to go back far to find Musk’s last controversial comment – only to Tuesday, in fact.
On 28 November, Musk was accused of promoting a long-debunked conspiracy theory which alleged high-profile Democrats ran a paedophile abuse ring from a Washington pizza restaurant.
The billionaire posted and later deleted a meme referencing “Pizzagate” on X.
It was an image from TV show The Office, with fake dialogue superimposed on to the scene to make it look like the characters were arguing about whether the conspiracy was real.
“Does seem at least a little suspicious,” Musk wrote.
NBC News reports Musk has replied to X posts about Pizzagate at least four times since 20 November.
October 2023 – Backing controversial war accounts
X has long been criticised for failing to tackle the spread of disinformation about the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
But Musk was accused of contributing to the issue directly just a few days after Hamas’s 7 October attack on Israeli civilians when he posted the names of two controversial accounts, claiming they were “good” for “following the war in real-time”.
Journalists and X users swiftly pointed out that both accounts had previously shared a fake AI-generated image of an explosion at the Pentagon, and that one of them had posted numerous antisemitic comments in recent months.
Musk later deleted his post.
September 2023 – Musk admits denying request from Ukraine
On 7 September this year, Musk admitted he withheld the use of his satellite network near the Crimean coast – effectively thwarting a sneak attack by Ukrainian forces on Russian ships.
Ukrainian military forces planned to use the Starlink satellites for a drone attack on a Russian naval base in September 2022, but Musk wouldn’t allow it, later saying that doing so would have made his company SpaceX “explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation”.
Ukrainian officials condemned the billionaire’s intervention, saying he was enabling Vladimir Putin and costing the lives of civilians.
December 2022 – ‘My dog is the CEO of Twitter’
On 18 December 2022, mere months into his X reign, Musk decided to create a poll on his social media site, posing the question: “Should I step down as the CEO of Twitter?”
He promised to abide by the results of votes, which ultimately swung 57.5% in favour of his resignation.
“I will resign as CEO as soon as I find someone foolish enough to take the job,” he pledged once voting was closed.
“After that, I will just run the software and servers teams.”
Months went by without any word on a potential successor.
When he was reminded of his promise in April 2023, the billionaire stated: “I did stand down. I keep telling you I’m not the CEO of Twitter, my dog is the CEO of Twitter.”
He did eventually appoint Linda Yaccarino as his successor, labelling himself the company’s new chief technology officer.
December 2022 – Musk bans journalists from X
Musk was told he faced EU sanctions after he claimed a number of prominent reporters had been booted off X for sharing personal information about him.
He claimed the journalists in question had “doxxed my exact location in real-time” because they had tweeted about @ElonJet, an account which tracked his private plane.
Musk said people sharing his location were basically giving out “assassination coordinates”.
Musk later reinstated the accounts after the majority of people voted in favour of letting them back onto the platform through a poll he created.
But critics claimed the billionaire had shown hypocrisy by removing the journalists’ free speech despite regularly promising to uphold it.
November 2022 – Trump is reinstated after permanent suspension
One of Musk’s first radical moves as X’s new owner was to welcome former US president Donald Trump back to the platform after he was banned in January 2021 – again claiming it was in the name of free speech.
He had been banned after the January 6 attack by his supporters on the US Capitol that left several people dead.
Twitter had said the ban was “due to the risk of further incitement of violence” – but Musk was clear about his opposition to the move, calling it a “mistake” and “morally wrong”.
Trump ultimately opted to leave his Twitter account dormant after creating his own social media platform, Truth Social.
But his reinstatement marked the start of more lax rules on X that would eventually see controversial figures granted access to their accounts despite breaking previously established guidelines.
Rapper Kanye West, for example, was reinstated on X in July 2023 despite tweeting an image of a swastika hours after he praised Hitler and made antisemitic jokes in an interview eight months prior.
October 2022 – Sharing a baseless claim after the attack on Paul Pelosi
Musk marked his first week as X’s chief executive by tweeting a link to an unfounded rumour about the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband which left him in hospital for six days.
The article Musk shared at the end of October 2022 recycled a baseless claim that the personal life of Paul Pelosi, the former House Speaker’s husband, somehow played a role in an intruder’s attack in the couple’s San Francisco home.
Musk posted a link to the fringe website and added: “There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye.”
He later deleted the post.