Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, shrugged off a weeks-long advertiser exodus at the social media platform X that followed his apparent endorsement of an anti-Semitic post.
At the New York Times DealBook Summit on Wednesday, Musk said former advertisers like the Walt Disney Company could “go f–k yourself,” specifically singling out Disney CEO Bob Iger, who was in attendance and took the stage a short time later.
“I have no problem being hated — hate away,” Musk said after accusing brands of using their marketing spend to “blackmail” him.
“There’s a real weakness to wanting to be liked,” Musk affirmed.
His remarks, which were streamed live by the New York Times and carried globally on television by CNBC, followed reports by the same newspaper that indicated X (formerly Twitter) was on pace to lose around $75 million this year.
Much of the platform’s financial woes can be directly linked to Musk, who acquired the company formerly known as Twitter for $44 billion late last year. The acquisition went through after Twitter’s corporate board threatened to sue Musk when he tried to renege on his purchase offer earlier in the year.
Shortly after acquiring the company, Musk fired around half of Twitter’s employees, including many of its support and technical staff that kept the platform running. Almost immediately, Twitter was beset with problems, including technical issues that left users unable to access their accounts and a sharp uptick in hateful and abusive behavior — some of which Musk himself stoked.
Musk also targeted journalists who tracked his private jet using openly-available information sources, banned a Wired reporter who covered the hack of a podcaster’s Twitter account, and affixed controversial “government funded” labels to accounts used by domestic and international public broadcasters. Changes made to Twitter’s API — which were directed by Musk — broke several features relied upon by companies and users, and Musk’s determination to build out a subscription service that tied account verification to a nominal monthly payment led to an increase in imposter accounts spreading false information.
But it was Musk’s response to an anti-Semitic tweet several weeks ago that triggered the company’s latest crisis, one that saw several high-profile brands like Airbnb, Coca-Cola, IBM, Comcast and Disney pull their financial support of the platform. Numerous brand accounts have also gone dark on X, including Paramount, Lionsgate and Sony.
Shortly after the New York Times published its report on Twitter’s ad problems, the company responded by claiming the actual amount of revenue it expects to lose is actually around $11 million. Officials at X said the reports reviewed by the Times contained either inaccurate and outdated information, or data connected to “an internal exercise to evaluate risk,” the newspaper reported.
Speaking on Wednesday, Disney’s CEO Iger said he had a “lot of respect for Elon and what he’s accomplished,” but affirmed that the current state of X didn’t align with Disney’s corporate values. Musk’s comments directed at Iger and Disney at the DealBook Summit only further suggested that Disney should distance itself from X, Iger said.
“By him taking the position that he took in quite a public manner, we just felt that the association with that position and Elon Musk and X was not necessarily a positive one for us,” Iger affirmed. “And we decided we would pull our advertising.”
Iger declined to say how long Disney may suspend its participation on X, but affirmed some of its editorial brands like ABC News and ESPN were allowed to continue using the service. Both brands were still active from a number of X accounts as of Thursday morning.