Elon Musk took the stage at the DealBook conference on Wednesday evening with nervous laughter and a cascade of jokes about himself and his companies. But the interview quickly turned to the more serious subject of Musk’s recent antisemitic posts on X (formerly Twitter) and whether his company can survive the advertiser boycott. On that matter, Musk seemed alternatingly apologetic and defiant — acknowledging his mistakes, then doing everything in his power to push advertisers away.
“I hope they stop. Don’t advertise,” Musk told interviewer Andrew Ross Sorkin. “If somebody is going to try to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money, go fuck yourself. Go fuck yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is.” He singled out Disney CEO Bob Iger, who discussed not wanting Disney to be affiliated with Musk while onstage earlier in the day. “Hey Bob, if you’re in the audience.”
If advertisers don’t return, Musk said, “what this advertising boycott is going to do is it’s going to kill the company.” He seemed almost resigned to the possibility, speaking of it almost as though X were a martyr and advertisers the enemy. “That is what everybody on Earth will know,” he said. “We’ll be gone, and it’ll be gone because of an advertiser boycott.”
Musk’s message to advertisers came after what had briefly appeared to be an attempt to salvage the damage he caused after he called an antisemitic post the “actual truth” two weeks ago. More than 100 brands have since halted their ads, and the company is at risk of losing $75 million by the end of the year, according to The New York Times.
“I should in retrospect should not have replied to that one person,” Musk said. He blamed media outlets for not covering his clarifications before apologizing. “Essentially I handed a loaded gun to those who hate me, and arguably to those are antisemitic, and for that I’m quite sorry. That was not my intention.”
But even in his attempts to explain himself — that out of tens of thousands of posts on X, he’s bound to say “foolish” things — Musk insisted he wasn’t on an “apology tour.” He said his recent visit to Israel wasn’t in response to the criticism of his posts and that he didn’t mind being an object of contempt. He then went on a rambling explanation of what he says he really meant: his belief that Jewish people are funding causes meant to “annihilate” them.
His attempted clarification only seemed to further the antisemitic conspiracy theory he promoted in the first place, broadly blaming “people in the Jewish community” for their support of unnamed activist groups.
X CEO Linda Yaccarino — the former advertising chief at NBCUniversal who Musk brought on board to shore up the platform’s appeal to advertisers — took to X shortly after her CTO’s rant to say this: “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.”
The full interview was meandering and at times devolved into stream of consciousness responses; Musk spoke for triple the time most other interviewees did. But the questions around Musk’s own actions, and the resulting advertiser exodus — the things that could materially impact X — seemed to garner the most nonchalant answers. He doesn’t seem to care.
Update November 30th, 4:35AM ET: Added statement from X CEO Linda Yaccarino.