Billionaire Elon Musk faced backlash for tweeting a Paul Pelosi conspiracy theory to Hillary Clinton on Sunday, just days after buying the social media company.
Clinton on Saturday condemned the attack on Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was beaten with a hammer inside the couple’s San Francisco home early Friday morning. His attacker David DePape is said to have a history of believing in right-wing conspiracies, including QAnon.
“The Republican Party and its spokespersons now routinely spread deranged hate and conspiracy theories. It is shocking, but not surprising, that violence has been the result. As citizens, we must hold them accountable for their words and actions that follow,” Clinton tweeted. Saturday in response to the attack.
Musk then responded to Clinton with a conspiracy theory from an article in the Santa Monica Observer, who in 2016 falsely reported that Clinton was dead and replaced by a lookalike. The headline read, “The ugly truth: Paul Pelosi was on drugs and had an argument with a prostitute Friday morning.”
“There is a small possibility that there is more to this story than meets the eye,” he tweeted at the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.
The conspiracy theory has not been supported by any facts and has been widely dismissed. Musk has since deleted the tweet, but has not issued any statement addressing the misinformation.
He nevertheless faced rebuke for the tweet on Sunday.
“Elon Musk is not a trained journalist. This is dangerously irresponsible. The newspaper he quotes wrote in 2016 that Hillary Clinton died on the campaign trail and was using a lookalike. This is disgusting, @elonmusk “, tweeted Isa Watson, founder and CEO of Squad. “With great power comes great responsibility. Do better.”
“Elon Musk says Twitter won’t be a ‘free-for-all’ hellscape where anything can be said without consequences. ?” tweeted Citizens for Ethics.
Political commentator Molly Jong-Fast tweeted, “This exchange between @HillaryClinton and @elonmusk should kill any remaining advertiser confidence in the platform.” She later added, “Elon Musk deleted the Santa Monica Watcher’s tweet instead of duplicating it, but it’s not like he apologized or tried to correct the record.”
The Santa Monica Observer thanked Musk for sharing the article in a tweet on Sunday afternoon. He also defended the article against claims of misinformation as being “sourced” and “published as opinion.”
“Thanks @elonmusk for buying Twitter. And thank you for retweeting our story,” read the newspaper’s tweet.
Musk’s takeover of Twitter is shrouded in controversy
Controversy is the latest to hit Musk amid his Twitter buy, who has faced skepticism from critics who have raised concerns that his commitment to free speech would amount to allowing the misinformation and hate speech to thrive on the platform.
Musk said Twitter “cannot become a free-for-all hellscape,” although that did little to allay those concerns, which were renewed by his Pelosi tweet. He said on Friday that no changes to the platform’s content moderation system had yet been implemented.
After buying the company, he quickly fired some of its senior executives and employees, including CEO Parag Agrawal and chief legal counsel Vijaya Gadde, who called in January 2021 to permanently suspend former President Donald’s account. Trump for inciting violence.
Some high-profile celebrities, including Shonda Rhimes, have abandoned Twitter in light of its takeover.
Newsweek Musk’s Tesla contacted for comment.
Updated 10/30/2022 5:37 PM ET: This article has been updated with additional information.