NEW YORK—Elon Musk on Wednesday told advertisers who’ve abandoned X over his antisemitic and conspiratorial posts to “Go fuck yourself,” throwing a normally calm media summit off the rails during its closing session.
While appearing at The New York Times’ annual DealBook Summit, Musk accused major companies like Disney and The Washington Post of wanting to “blackmail me with advertising,” denouncing them for abandoning his platform and speculating they will “fail” for their decision.
“Go. Fuck. Yourself,” he repeated, pausing and smirking before directly addressing Disney CEO Bob Iger, who’d appeared earlier in the day: “Hey, Bob.”
The interview with Times financial columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin ranged from erratic to esoteric, with the moderator determined to get Musk to explain his decision-making. Musk, adorned in a leather jacket and a dog tag reading “Bring Them Home” that he said he received from a hostage’s family during his trip to Israel this week, claimed Tesla has done “more to help the environment than all other companies combined.”
Therefore, as Tesla’s CEO, he had done more for humanity than all other people on Earth, Musk reasoned.
“We’re talking about power and influencing the reality of goodness, not the perception of it,” Musk said. “What I see all over the place is people who care about looking good while doing evil.”
Of his “most foolish mistake” since taking over Twitter, now known as X, Musk said he regrets his reply to an antisemitic tweet on Nov. 15.
“I should in retrospect not have replied to that one person and should have written in greater length what I meant,” Musk said. “But those clarifications were ignored by the media and essentially I handed a loaded gun to those who hate me and arguably to those who are antisemitic. And for that I’m quite sorry, that was not my intention.”
He added that it was “one of the most foolish—if not the most foolish—thing I’ve done on the platform.”
Musk served as a near-ethereal villain himself throughout the Wednesday conference, with Sorkin questioning DealBook guests including Vice President Kamala Harris, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, and Iger about Musk’s posts. Harris refused to address them, while Iger complimented Musk’s business acumen—though he did suggest Disney’s continued involvement with X after Musk’s tweets was “not necessarily a positive one for us.”
Throughout the wide-ranging conversation, Sorkin pressed Musk on various topics, including artificial intelligence, TikTok, and the labor dispute between the United Auto Workers and car manufacturers. But his harshest words came for companies who dropped X as an advertising platform, a decision Musk said they would regret and that would eventually cause X to fail.
“What this advertiser boycott is going to do,” Musk said, “it’s gonna kill the company.”
Musk posited that the public (“the judge”) will then remember that those companies bankrupted X, and it will lead them to later boycott those companies. Sorkin suggested that those companies may find it easier to blame Musk for his posts.
“I imagine they’re going to say, ‘We didn’t kill the company,’” Sorkin said. “They’re going to say, Elon, that you killed the company, because you said these things and they were inappropriate things and they didn’t feel comfortable on the platform, right?”
“Let’s see how Earth responds to that,” Musk said, suggesting that time may prove him right.
“Let the chips fall where they may,” Musk said.
Hours later, X CEO Linda Yaccarino—who was in the audience for the entirety of Musk’s performance—released a calculated statement standing behind his comments.
“Today @elonmusk gave a wide ranging and candid interview at @dealbook 2023,” she wrote on the platform. “He also offered an apology, an explanation and an explicit point of view about our position. X is enabling an information independence that’s uncomfortable for some people. We’re a platform that allows people to make their own decisions. 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.