Just days after he promised advertisers that Twitter would not become a “free-for-all hellscape,” Elon Musk used the platform he now owns to amplify a baseless conspiracy theory about the hammer attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband by an intruder.
“There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye,” Musk tweeted Sunday morning in reply to a tweet by Hillary Clinton blasting the Republican Party for creating a toxic environment that lays the groundwork for violence against politicians.
Musk linked out to a story, which is no longer accessible, in an online conservative rag called the Santa Monica Observer claiming that the suspect did not break into the Pelosis’ San Francisco home hunting for Nancy.
Instead the invisibly sourced “story” alleged that Paul Pelosi, 82, was having a liaison with a male sex worker. While others have also hinted at this rumor—twisting themselves into pretzels to explain such details as the broken window and a 911 call—none of them have the reach or influence of Musk.
And the outlet he cited is particularly unreliable. As the Los Angeles Times has reported, Santa Monica Observer has been the source of other patently false, ridiculous articles, including one that a body double for Hillary Clinton was sent to a debate with Donald Trump and that Kanye West was given a top job in the Interior Department.
More than six hours later, Musk’s reply to Clinton was gone with no comment or explanation. Of course, by then it had already been retweeted thousands and thousands of times.
The irresponsible fact-free post went up just hours after Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that she and her family are “heartbroken and traumatized” by the attack on Paul, which left him with a fractured skull that had to be repaired in surgery.
The House speaker was in Washington during the attack, allegedly carried out by David DePape, 42, a Bay Area man who has promoted QAnon ideas and other far-right conspiracy theories online. He is expected to be formally charged on Monday.
Musk’s takeover of Twitter has been cheered by conservatives who hope that he will reverse lifetime bans from the platform for various violations of the rules.
But that hasn’t happened yet: Musk announced last week that he is forming content “councils” and will not be un-banning anyone or setting new guidelines until they start meeting.
After Musk spread the Pelosi story, several people replied to him saying they had reported his tweet. Twitter did not respond to an inquiry about whether anyone was reviewing the post.