Elon Musk launched a baseless Twitter attack on George Soros, a frequent target for antisemitic conspiracy theories, accusing the financier of hating humanity days after Soros disclosed having sold off a modest stake in Tesla.
While Musk’s remarks don’t mention the billionaire philanthropist’s ethnicity, Musk was criticized for dangerous rhetoric that could potentially fuel further attacks on Soros.
In a tweet late Monday, Musk compared him to X-Men villain Magneto, who like Soros was a survivor of the Holocaust, according to the comics’ back story for the character. When a Twitter user defended Soros as having good intentions which are criticized by those who disagree with his politics, Musk responded, “You assume they are good intentions. They are not. He wants to erode the very fabric of civilization. Soros hates humanity.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, a civil right group that tracks and battles incidents of antisemitism, criticized Musk’s comment and said it “will embolden extremists.”
“Soros often is held up by the far-right, using antisemitic tropes, as the source of the world’s problems,” Greenblat tweeted. “To see Elon Musk, regardless of his intent, feed this segment — comparing him to a Jewish supervillain, claiming Soros ‘hates humanity’ — is not just distressing, it’s dangerous: it will embolden extremists who already contrive anti-Jewish conspiracies and have tried to attack Soros and Jewish communities as a result.”
In response to Greenblatt’s tweet, Musk responded with his own tweets. In one, Musk said, “Hey stop defaming me.” In the second, he said “ADL should just drop the ‘A.’”
Soros did not respond to Musk using his own Twitter account. His only tweet from Monday, the day that Musk launched his attack, was to deny a rumor that he had suffered a heart attack. “I am alive and healthy,” he tweeted. Many of the 13,500 comments posted on that tweet were from people wishing him dead.
Neither Soros’s investment firm nor the Open Society Foundations, his primary charity, responded to a request for comment.
In an interview on CNBC following Tesla’s shareholder meeting Tuesday, Musk defended the tweets about Soros, including his claim that Soros hates humanity, as his opinion. Musk said that his has a right to tweet his opinions, even if it makes Twitter’s largest source of income flee. He said he “didn’t care” if his controversial tweets drew the ire of Tesla customers or Twitter advertisers.
“I’ll say what I want to say, and if the consequence of that is losing money, so be it,” Musk said in the interview.
Musk has often tweeted inflammatory comments, including those that support conspiracy theories.
Twitter has seen a sharp drop in advertising revenue since Musk took over the company last year. Last week, Musk announced that NBCUniversal ad chief Linda Yaccarino would replace him as CEO of Twitter.
Soros, 92, is a longtime target of right wing conspiracy theorists and of antisemites. He is a prominent contributor to Democratic candidates and liberal causes. Open Secrets, which tracks political contributions, shows he contributed $50 million to the Democracy PAC II Superpac in November, and $125 million in the fall of 2022.
He is also founder and the major contributor of the Open Society Foundations, with a stated aim of working for justice, democratic governance, and human rights. It has raised the ire of some authoritarian regimes, including that of Viktor Orban, prime minister of Soros’ native Hungary. Orban is an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, accused of his own authoritarian moves in Hungary.
Attacks on Soros have increased in recent years alongside a broader increase in incidents of antisemitic attacks. The ADL said that US antisemitic incidents reached their highest level last year since the group began recording them in 1979.
Some right-wing influencers in the US have embraced overseas authoritarian leaders opposed by Soros, such as Orban. Former President Donald Trump and many Republicans who attacked New York district attorney Alvin Bragg for bringing criminal charges against Trump were quick to point out that Bragg received campaign support from Soros.
Musk has come under criticism since he took over Twitter for allowing Nazi sympathizers to return to the social media platform as part of a broader, mass unbanning of previously suspended accounts due to his stated policy of supporting “free speech.” Among those allowed back on Twitter was Andrew Anglin, a self-professed white supremacist who founded the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.
Studies by the ADL and the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that the volume of hate speech on Twitter has grown dramatically under Musk’s stewardship. Musk called the reports by the two watchdog groups “utterly false,” claiming that “hate speech impressions,” or the number of times a tweet containing hate speech has been viewed, “continue to decline” since his early days of owning the company when the platform saw a spike in hate speech designed to test Musk’s tolerance.
Musk, who has nearly 140 million Twitter followers, has frequently amplified right wing tropes and some conspiracy theories on Twitter, including a baseless claim surrounding the violent attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of the former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (Musk later deleted his tweet.) Musk has also taken personal shots at those with whom he disagrees or those who have criticized his companies.
Soros’ investment in Tesla was modest in terms of his overall investment portfolio. Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission show he purchased 89,600 split- adjusted shares in the second quarter of 2022, and held them through the third quarter before purchasing an additional 242,000 shares in the final three months of 2022. But he sold his entire stake sometime in the first three months of this year, according to his latest filing last week.
Musk actually sold far more Tesla (TSLA) shares himself in recent months as he dealt with mounting losses at Twitter, which he purchased in October. He most recently sold 22 million shares in December. But he still remains Tesla (TSLA)’s largest shareholder by far.
– CNN’s Allison Morrow and Oliver Darcy contributed to this report.