New Twitter owner Elon Musk seemed to confirm the fears of many on Sunday when, days after taking over the platform, he replied to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by lending credence to a wild conspiracy theory about the recent violent attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband.
Clinton had shared a Los Angeles Times story about the Qanon and far-right links to David DePape, who attacked Paul Pelosi in the Speaker of the House’s home last week while looking for Nancy Pelosi.
“The Republican Party and its mouthpieces now regularly spread hate and deranged conspiracy theories,” Clinton’s tweet said. “It is shocking, but not surprising, that violence is the result. As citizens, we must hold them accountable for their words and the actions that follow.”
Musk replied on Sunday with a link to a conspiracy theory about Paul Pelosi from the Santa Monica Observer, an outlet with a dubious track record for honesty that previously reported that Clinton had died and had been replaced by a body double for a debate with Donald Trump.
“There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye,” Musk said to Clinton, linking to an unverified story claiming that Paul Pelosi was in a dispute with a male prostitute at the time of the attack. (Musk deleted the tweet several hours later, but it had already gone viral.)
“This exchange between Hillary Clinton and Elon Musk should kill any remaining confidence advertisers had in the platform,” Fast Politics podcast host Molly Jong-Fast tweeted, with MSNBC executive producer Kyle Griffin adding, “Elon Musk is already spreading dangerous lies on the platform he owns.”
Jimmy Kimmel, meanwhile, didn’t mince words. “It has been interesting, over the years, to watch you blossom from the electric car guy into a fully-formed piece of sh-t,” he tweeted.
Author and journalist Mark Harris added, “So your first big move after an attempted assassination is to tweet a homophobic and demonstrably false lie from a wholly discredited source? Explain how you’re not exactly as awful as people assume you’re going to be.”
“Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!” his statement read in part. “In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all, where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences, just as you can choose, for example, to see movies or play video games ranging from all ages to mature.”
Since Musk took ownership of Twitter on Friday, there’s been a surge in hate speech. He said on Friday that Twitter would be “forming a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints,” and that “no major content decisions or account resinstatements will happen before that council convenes.”
As for spreading conspiracy theories, well, perhaps we should look to a Tweet from Musk on Oct. 26 for insight into how he views Twitter’s role in policing misinformation.
“A beautiful thing about Twitter is how it empowers citizen journalism – people are able to disseminate news without an establishment bias.”