May 20, 2022

After Sexual Allegations, Elon Musk Jets Off to Brazil

What do you do when somebody credibly accuses you of sexual misconduct?

For SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the answer seems to be to jet off Brazil and meet with the country’s president about business matters, while posting a Twitter tirade about how you didn’t try to trade a horse for a sexually-charged massage from your flight attendant.

As a quick refresher, the allegations are that the world’s richest man abused the power dynamic aboard a SpaceX jet to show his erect genitals to a flight attendant in 2016, as Insider reported last night, resulting in SpaceX paying $250,000 to keep the story quiet.

“If I were inclined to engage in sexual harassment, this is unlikely to be the first time in my entire 30-year career that it comes to light,” Musk told Insider of the allegations, calling their story a “politically motivated hit piece.”

As the New York Times pointed out this morning, that alleged nondisclosure agreement represents a particular flashpoint in the saga, since Musk has slathered his quest to buy the social media giant Twitter in rhetoric about free speech absolutism.

Many had already pointed out the irony of that type of language for Musk, who has a history of shutting down others’ right to speech when it was inconvenient to him. But the alleged sexual misconduct and subsequent hush money points a particularly bright spotlight on that mismatch.

It’s also worth pointing out that Musk has a troubled history of relationships with women. His first spouse publicly accused him of treating her as a “trophy wife.” In 2016, Vice pointed out that he didn’t follow a single woman on Twitter. After it emerged that his ex was dating a trangender women, he fired off several tweets mocking transgender people.

Last year, he also deleted several sexist tweets that caused a widespread outcry for making women feel unwelcome in science and tech.

“Perhaps it’s because it’s by one of the most powerful men in the world,” wrote one critic of those tweets. “Perhaps it’s due to how rife sexual harassment is in academia. Perhaps it’s because if I’m bothered by it, it’ll be met with ‘it’s just a joke.’”

If that type of behavior has bled over into Musk’s professional life to the degree that he propositioned an employee for sex, it’s even more alarming — and deserves a serious response.

Instead, so far, he’s instead kept that appointment with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, before whisking himself away this morning to talk about monitoring the Amazon.

Oh, and he spent the entire period that he was aware the story was coming out announcing his sudden support for the Republican party.

If Musk’s behavior has seemed particularly bizarre lately, it’s worth noting that his deal to buy Twitter seems to be falling apart at the same time that he’s lost more than $100 billion amid a steep market downtown.

Where he goes next is anyone’s guess — though if Brazil is any indication, maybe we’ll see some more globetrotting.

More on things that aren’t Elon Musk’s fault: Tesla Autopilot May Have Been Involved in Fatal Crash That Killed Three

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