Elon Musk defends Soros attack, rejects white supremacy claims in wild CNBC interview

In wide-ranging CNBC interview, Tesla/Twitter magnate appears to embrace conspiracy theories on Soros, mass shooter

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published May 17, 2023 11:50AM (EDT)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk (LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Tesla CEO Elon Musk (LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

In a Tuesday interview with David Faber of CNBC, tech billionaire and soon-to-be-former Twitter CEO Elon Musk said he would not stop sharing his controversial beliefs on the social media platform he owns, mere hours after posting a tweet about liberal billionaire donor George Soros that was widely criticized for deploying antisemitic tropes

"I'll say what I want to say, and if the consequence of doing that is losing money, so be it," Musk told Farber during the sitdown interview, broadcast live from a Tesla corporate facility in Texas. 

Musk went after Soros in a series of tweets on Monday, comparing the Hungarian-born businessman and philanthropist to the Marvel Comics supervillain Magneto, who like Soros is a Jewish survivor of the Nazi Holocaust.

"Soros reminds me of Magneto," Musk wrote on Monday evening. In a separate tweet, Musk claimed that Soros "hates humanity" and "wants to erode the very fabric of civilization."

During Musk's tenure at Twitter, antisemitic speech and related conspiracy theories have spread rapidly, according to The Washington Post. A study first shared with The Technology 202 determined that Twitter posts appearing to contain antisemitic language increased by 105 percent between Musk's takeover on Oct. 27, 2022, and early February.

When questioned by Faber about the tweets, Musk described himself as "prosemite." His attacks on Soros, however, drew the attention of David Saranga, an official at Israel's Foreign Affairs Ministry, who wrote that Twitter is "filled with AntiSemitic conspiracies and hate speech targeting Jews around the world."

"Unfortunately Twitter does nothing to address this problem," he added. 

Faber also questioned Musk about his reluctance to believe that a mass shooter who recently killed eight people at a mall in Allen, Texas, held white supremacist views, as now seems glaringly obvious. Musk had appeared to imply that the Latino background of the shooter, Mauricio Garcia, meant that he could not be a white supremacist and evidence to the contrary could be a "bad psyop," or psychological operation. After the open-source intelligence group Bellingcat shared information about Garcia's white supremacist and neo-Nazi beliefs, Musk claimed that the Netherlands-based research group "literally specializes in psychological operations." 

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"This is either the weirdest story ever or a very bad psyop!" he added.

"I think it was incorrectly ascribed to be a white supremacist action," Musk said to Faber. "Do you know what Bellingcat does? Psyops." 

"I'm saying that I thought ascribing it to white supremacy was bullshit," he continued. 

"There's no proof, by the way, that he was not," Faber said, referring to Garcia.

"I would say there's no proof that he is," Musk replied.

On this issue at least, the evidence appears overwhelming. The AP reported last week that Texas Department of Public Safety regional director Hank Sibley said at a news conference, describing Garcia, "We do know he had neo-Nazi ideation. He had patches. He had tattoos." 

On the less urgent topic of remote work in the tech industry, Musk said, ""People who make your food that gets delivered — they can't work from home. The people that come fix your house, they can't work from home, but you can? Does that seem morally right? That's messed up."

"You see it as a moral issue?" Faber asked. 

"Yes. It's a productivity issue, but it's also a moral issue," Musk said.

In a rare admission of error, Musk conceded during the interview that he should not have fired so many of Twitter's employees. He has reduced the workforce by around 80 percent since purchasing the company last fall for $44 billion. 

"There's no question that some of the people who were let go probably shouldn't have been let go," he said. "We certainly did not have the time to figure out — we had to make widespread cuts to get the run rate under control."

"We absolutely need to hire people," he said. "And if they're not too mad at us, probably rehire some of the people that we let go."

Musk added that he envisions Twitter as "a cybernetic collective mind for humanity." When asked by Faber if he is worried that his opinionated posts might be affecting the financial welfare of his companies negatively, Musk responded with a quote from "The Princess Bride": "Offer me money. Offer me power. I don't care."

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a staff writer at Salon. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Formerly a staff writer at NowThis News, she has an M.A. in Magazine Journalism from NYU and was previously a news fellow at Salon.

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Antisemitism Brief Cnbc Conspiracy Theory Elon Musk George Soros Mass Shooting Mauricio Garcia Tesla Texas Twitter