Last fall, shortly after buying Twitter, Elon Musk sent a message to a jaded corporate community: Trust me.
“Twitter wants to be the most respected advertising platform in the world,” said Mr. Musk wrote. An open letterContrasting itself with the so-called traditional news media, he said, the profit motive fueled social divisions.
On Sunday, Mr. Musk jumped to the defense of “Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams, whose career has soared in recent days after he called black people a “hateful group” and urged white people to “get the hell out of there.” During a YouTube livestream.
Not a fan of big news organizations, Mr. Musk later appeared to criticize hundreds of newspapers for removing “Dilbert” from their pages. asserts: “The media is racist.”
In an incendiary situation where most chief executives run away, Mr. This is another example of Musk frantically inserting himself. It builds on his history of attacking what he sees as a misguided commitment to diversity by the political left, Mr. Musk, in line with some conservatives, sees himself as a form of discrimination.
Linking the scandal over a cartoonist’s racist remarks to media criticism, Mr. Musk reiterated his disdain for mainstream media. The billionaire often reprimands mainstream news outlets for censoring alternative viewpoints, even when he temporarily banned some journalists covering his companies from Twitter last year.
Mr. Musk’s frenetic, provocative and sometimes contradictory public comments have won him millions of fans on Twitter and Tesla. Twitter’s advertisers may take a dim view, questioning the stability of his leadership as the social media company struggles financially.
Inside the media industry
- Rupert Murdoch: The conservative media mogul has agreed to a deposition in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against several Fox News hosts who promoted a false story that the 2020 election was rigged.
- ‘Dilbert’ dropped: Hundreds of newspapers across the country have stopped running the comic strip after its creator Scott Adams called black people a “hate group”.
- Carlos Watson: The founder of troubled digital start-up Ozzie Media has been arrested on fraud charges, ending the worst fallout in the history of online journalism.
- Supporting Media: The The departure of Vice Chief Executive Nancy Tupac highlights the decline of a group of digital media companies long touted as the future of the industry.
“He’s playing a version of the fantasy CEO on Twitter, with no real expertise or commitment to tackling the issues,” Mr. said Rashad Robinson, president of the civil rights organization Color of Change, one of the groups that met with Musk. Year to discuss Twitter’s handling of problematic and offensive posts.
Mr. Robinson, Mr. Musk’s behavior has left Twitter advertisers in a bind, he said. “These companies, with their diversity programs, are saying things that directly contradict what Elon Musk is saying,” he said in an interview. “These companies really have a good chance of exiting as a moral decision and a business decision.”
For comment, Mr. Musk did not respond. He called himself a “free speech absolutist” and offered an “apology” to the thousands of Twitter users he suspended last year. Within months of his takeover of the service, researchers found that slurs against black Americans and other minority groups increased on the platform. (Mr. Musk has denied claims that hate speech has increased on Twitter under his ownership.)
Mr. Adams, in a text message, wrote: “I don’t see Musk’s comment being in my favor, saying something needs to be fixed.”
Representatives for several Twitter advertisers did not respond to requests for comment on Monday. But the episode left some Madison Avenue executives shaking their heads privately.
In recent weeks, Twitter has made progress in persuading some brands to return to its platform. Mark Reid, chief executive of WPP, one of the world’s largest advertising agencies, told Bloomberg Television Last week Twitter appeared to be “more stable in the past few months than it was at the end of last year.” He added, “I think customers should start looking at how they can come back to Twitter.”
“That’s good to hear!” Mr. Musk Tweeted In replying.
WPP declined to comment on Monday.
Mr. In response to Adams’ outcry, the syndicated “Dilbert” comic strip said it would stop running.
Mr. Musk, Mr. Adams seemed to respond by criticizing the papers for abandoning them.
“For too long, the American media has been racist against non-whites, and now they are racist against whites and Asians” Mr. Musk tweeted on Sunday. “The same thing happened at elite colleges and high schools in America. Maybe they try not to be racist.
Mr. Musk later responded to one Twitter user’s comment saying, “Adams’ comments are not nice. But there is an element of truth to this… It’s complicated.
“Exactly,” Mr. Musk replied.
Jonathan A. Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said Monday that Mr. He said he was “deeply disturbed” by Musk’s comments. “As a prominent leader of a social media platform,” he said, “Musk’s words have great influence, and he should be condemning bigotry, not defending it.”
Mr. Twitter has faced an exodus of advertisers since Musk announced early in his tenure that he would loosen its content review rules. Some brands cut their spending sharply: According to the latest estimates from research firm Sensor Tower, more than half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers last year will spend nothing on the platform by 2023.
First, Mr. Musk tried to reach out to some critics.
He met with leaders of several civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League, in early November, and some of the participants included Mr. Musk described himself as accepting their views. He spoke with ad executives to address concerns that their brands would start appearing with toxic ingredients on the platform.
Mr. Mr. Musk has promised Color of Change. Robinson said. Months passed, and the council did not function.
Twitter has laid off thousands of employees, including at least 200 over the weekend, Mr. Musk has been publicly expressing his views on a number of controversial topics through his tweets. His focus ranges from pop culture to technological innovation to, occasionally, whatever he happens to be watching on TV.
Will Ferrell and John C. Mr. Reilly on Sunday evening about slapstick comedy. Musk wrote.
He is Mr. Hours after Adams weighed in on his racist rant, Mr. Musk was responding to a Twitter post that included a video of the industrial process of mass-producing pretzels.
“Oh no,” he said Commented“That machine makes a lot of pretzels!”