Elon Musk Sparks Controversy with Pizzagate Conspiracy Theory Boost on X
In a recent post on X, Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, has once again courted controversy by promoting the long-standing and dangerous “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory. This comes just days after Musk faced widespread criticism and an advertiser exodus due to his endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory.
The incident occurred when a user on X attempted to link the founder of Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog, to the owner of the infamous “Pizzagate restaurant.” Musk replied with a simple “Weird,” thus bringing attention to the post for his over 160 million followers on X.
For those unfamiliar, Pizzagate is an anti-Hillary Clinton conspiracy theory that originated on platforms such as 4chan, Reddit, and Twitter in the lead-up to the 2016 US presidential election. Believers of this theory imagined a pedophilia ring allegedly operated out of a Washington, DC pizza shop, with involvement from Clinton and other Democrats. The claims were proven to be entirely false, but they did inspire Edgar Maddison Welch to fire an assault rifle inside the restaurant in December 2016. Fortunately, no one was injured, and Welch was later sentenced to four years in prison.
This is not the first time that Musk has drawn attention to controversial conspiracy theories on X. Last week, he endorsed an antisemitic post that claimed Jewish communities promote “hatred against Whites.” In a separate incident last year, Musk gave credence to a fringe conspiracy theory about a violent attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Musk’s engagement with these conspiracy theories has faced significant backlash from the White House and others. In response, a White House spokesperson labeled his actions as “unacceptable” and criticized him for perpetuating the “hideous lie” behind the deadliest act of antisemitism in American history.
The consequences of Musk’s actions are beginning to manifest, as several major advertisers, including Disney, Paramount, and NBCUniversal, have suspended their spending on X. IBM also joined the boycott after a report from Media Matters revealed that its ads appeared alongside pro-Nazi content on the platform.
Despite the mounting criticism, Musk has vehemently denied being antisemitic, stating that “nothing could be further from the truth.” His company has also accused Media Matters of distorting the likelihood of ads appearing next to extremist content on X and has taken steps to combat antisemitism and discrimination on the platform. In a countermove, X has filed a lawsuit against Media Matters.
Interestingly, X has not removed the pro-Nazi accounts mentioned in Media Matters’ report, claiming that their posts had minimal engagement and would no longer be eligible for monetization.
As the fallout from Musk’s controversial posts continues, it remains to be seen how this will impact his reputation and the future of X as a social media platform.
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