X factor

Republican presidential contenders share mixed reactions to Musk’s endorsement of antisemitic post

‘You have said the actual truth,’ Musk wrote on X last week, boosting a conspiracy theory alleging that Jewish people are seeking to replace the white race with non-white immigrants

Kirsty Wigglesworth - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Tesla and SpaceX's CEO Elon Musk during an in-conversation event with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Lancaster House on November 2, 2023 in London, England.

Republican presidential candidates are sharing mixed reactions to Elon Musk’s endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory, with some condemning the billionaire X owner, others dodging the controversy and at least one defending his comments.

During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday morning, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who launched his campaign on X, formerly Twitter, refused to denounce Musk for amplifying a social media post that accused Jews of pushing “dialectical hatred against whites” and supporting “hordes of minorities.”

“You have said the actual truth,” Musk replied on X last week, boosting a conspiracy theory alleging that Jewish people are seeking to replace the white race with non-white immigrants. The idea was cited by Robert Bowers before he killed 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh five years ago last month.

Even as Musk has faced widespread bipartisan backlash and advertisers are now fleeing his site, DeSantis claimed he “didn’t see the comment” while speaking with CNN host Jake Tapper on Sunday.

“I know Elon Musk, I’ve never seen him do anything,” DeSantis said after Tapper had read Musk’s X exchange aloud. “I think he’s a guy that believes in America. I’ve never seen him indulge in any of that, so it is surprising if that’s true. But I have not seen it. So I don’t sit there and pass judgment on the fly.”

DeSantis’ campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In a separate interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning, Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, called Musk’s comments “unacceptable” while voicing broader concern over a sharp rise in antisemitism amid the Israel-Hamas war.

“This is an outrageous, outrageous type of hate that’s being expressed, and we need to be speaking out against it no matter who does it,” Christie said. “Whether it’s Elon Musk, whether it’s professors on our college campuses or students that they are misleading, or whether it’s individuals who are speaking out in an antisemitic way on the streets of our cities.”

For his part, Musk has refused to retract his statement, alleging in follow-up posts on X that the Anti-Defamation League, which he threatened to sue in September, is promoting anti-white and anti-Asian racism. 

“The ADL unjustly attacks the majority of the West, despite the majority of the West supporting the Jewish people and Israel,” Musk said of the group last Wednesday. “This is because they cannot, by their own tenets, criticize the minority groups who are their primary threat. It is not right and needs to stop.”

He later claimed that “this does not extend to all Jewish communities, but it is also not just limited to ADL.”

Vivek Ramaswamy, the anti-woke entrepreneur and longshot Republican presidential contender, has vociferously defended Musk amid the fallout over his recent comments.

“Here’s the ugly truth: the ‘anti-racist’ woke BS from the last three years planted the seeds for today’s antisemitism, yet liberal groups like ADL who propped up BLM are the ones now crying foul,” Ramaswamy said in a statement posted to X on Saturday, using the acronym for the Black Lives Matter movement. “They’re insinuating that Elon Musk is an ‘antisemite’ to deflect accountability for their own failures. It’s disgusting and needs to stop.”

Tricia McLaughlin, a spokesperson for Ramaswamy, said he rejects claims that Musk promoted an antisemitic conspiracy theory. “He would disagree with the premise of your question,” McLaughlin said in a text exchange with Jewish Insider on Sunday. “He doesn’t think Musk endorsed it.”

Meanwhile, in a statement shared with JI on Saturday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas said that Musk “was wrong to promote a message that further divides our nation,” adding, “The real truth is that Jewish communities around the world are at risk, and Israeli citizens have been murdered by Hamas terrorists.”

“I am disturbed by the increase in antisemitic speech and actions across the globe, including inside the United States,” Hutchinson continued. “Leaders should unite against terrorism and behind the Jewish community rather than try to divide America along racial lines.”

A spokesperson for former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who has been outspoken against rising antisemitism, declined to comment on Sunday. 

Former President Donald Trump’s campaign and representatives for Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota did not respond to requests for comment.

The Biden administration forcefully condemned Musk in a statement shared on Friday. “It is unacceptable to repeat the hideous lie behind the most fatal act of antisemitism in American history at any time, let alone one month after the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust,” said Andrew Bates, a White House spokesperson.

In an appearance on CNN on Sunday, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a Jewish Democrat, called Musk’s comments “outrageous and dangerous” and said that House Democrats will be sending a letter to Musk this week asking him to retract his remarks and “clean up his act.”

Since he bought Twitter last year, Musk has faced growing scrutiny from critics who have accused him of enabling a proliferation of antisemitic content on the social media platform, which he renamed X.

In a message on X last Thursday, Linda Yaccarino, X’s chief executive, said the company’s “point of view has always been very clear that discrimination by everyone should STOP across the board,” adding that “X has also been extremely clear about our efforts to combat antisemitism and discrimination.”

Reached for comment on Sunday, X’s press office returned an automated email response: “Busy now, please check back later.”

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