By Robert Reich
Just three days after Elon Musk bought Twitter, he posted a tweet advancing the baseless allegation that Paul Pelosi, the husband of the Speaker of the House, who was assaulted Friday at the couple’s home, had been drunk and in a fight with a male prostitute.
The police found Mr. Pelosi, 82, attacked with a hammer inside his home by a man, David DePape, who had entered through the back door, seeking the Speaker.
Musk’s tweet, later deleted, was in response to a tweet posted on Saturday by Hillary Clinton, attacking Republicans for spreading “hate and deranged conspiracy theories” that she said had emboldened the man who attacked Ms. Pelosi’s husband.
In a reply to Clinton’s post, Musk wrote, “There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye” and then shared a link to an article in a faux newspaper, the Santa Monica Observer, in which the gonzo allegation about Paul Pelosi appeared.
This is the same Santa Monica Observer, by the way, that in 2016 claimed that Mrs. Clinton had died and that a body double was sent to debate the Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump.
If Musk’s tweet doesn’t raise bright red warning signs all over the world about his judgment and character, just days after he took over one of the planet’s largest and most influential media machines, I don’t know what will.
If nothing else, doesn’t Musk know that the world is watching to see how responsible he is, as the new owner of Twitter? The fact that he personally posts such unhinged, dangerous drivel within three days of taking over the platform suggests he doesn’t give a damn.
Musk already has 80 million followers on Twitter. That he exposed them to this toxicity is itself cause for deep concern.
Does he need reminding that America and the world are at a moment in history when hateful lies are having horrendous consequences? The husband of the Speaker of the House was almost murdered because of such lies. That Musk would choose this tragedy to demonstrate the disgusting extremes such hateful lies can reach is another indictment of his character and judgment.
We are just over a week until an election in which most Republican candidates for office are supporting Trump’s big lie that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him, in the most direct challenge to American democracy since the Civil War. Yet what is Musk’s response? To stir up even more divisiveness with yet another lie, while readying the platform for Trump’s imminent return.
Can anyone seriously believe Musk will be a responsible custodian of one of the most influential media outlets in the world?
Absurdly, Sunday’s tweet from Musk comes right after his vow in an open letter to advertisers that Twitter would not become a freewheeling site that allowed entirely unfettered commentary. “Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences,” he wrote. “Twitter aspires to be the most respected advertising platform in the world.”
Rubbish. By posting the lie about Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Musk just demonstrated his willingness — no, eagerness — for Twitter to become a free-for-all hellscape.
I have long had my doubts about Elon Musk’s character and judgment. He has repeatedly shown himself to be impetuous, unreliable, self-serving, and loony. But his latest foray suggests I may have overestimated him.
No one in a decent, civil society should have the unchecked power Elon Musk has accumulated. He must relinquish Twitter. If he does not, the rest of us should jump off his stinking ship.