SpaceX employees circulated an open letter criticizing CEO Elon Musk for his “behavior in the public sphere.” Those employees now find themselves out of a job, according to a Friday report from The New York Times.
“Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks,” the letter, first obtained by The Verge, asserted. “As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX — every tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company.”
The employees also said that “it is critical to make clear to our teams and to our potential talent pool that his messaging does not reflect our work, our mission, or our values,” exhorting SpaceX to “swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand.”
Those responsible for the Wednesday letter were fired by Thursday afternoon, the Times reported on the basis of three employees’ confirmation and an email obtained from SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell.
“The letter, solicitations and general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views,” Shotwell wrote. “We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism.”
The incident occurred weeks after a flight attendant accused Musk of exposing himself to her several years ago, touching her, and offering to buy her a horse in exchange for an erotic massage. Shotwell likewise dismissed the allegations to the company.
“Personally, I believe the allegations to be false; not because I work for Elon, but because I have worked closely with him for 20 years and never seen nor heard anything resembling these allegations,” Shotwell said.
The letter also came as Musk made headlines for announcing that he cast his ballot for Mayra Flores — a Mexican-American Republican congressional candidate who won a historically Democratic district in southern Texas — after earlier announcing that he would vote Republican in this year’s midterm elections. When asked online about who he was leaning toward supporting in the 2024 presidential election, Musk pointed to “DeSantis.”
Musk has been critical of other technology firms for their tendency toward radical progressivism. When Netflix shares plummeted earlier this year, Musk pinned the blame on the “woke mind virus” and affirmed that it represents “the biggest threat” to civilization.
Musk is also in the midst of purchasing Twitter for $44 billion and taking it private. He told the social media giant’s employees in a Thursday meeting that users should be able to post “pretty outrageous things” as the platform prioritizes “freedom of speech,” but not necessarily “freedom of reach.”
Musk has frequently encouraged Silicon Valley — and the United States at large — to reaffirm a commitment to free expression.
“I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans,” Musk said in April, noting that the “extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech says it all.”