New York (CNN) Elon Musk launched a baseless Twitter attack on George Soros, a frequent target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, accusing the financier of hating humanity days after Soros revealed he had sold a modest stake in Tesla.
While Musk’s remarks did not mention the billionaire philanthropist’s ethnicity, Musk was criticized for dangerous rhetoric that could potentially lead to further attacks on Soros.
In a chirping late Monday, Musk compared him to X-Men villain Magneto, who, like Soros, was a Holocaust survivor, according to the comics’ backstory for the character. When one Twitter user defended Soros as having good intentions who are being criticized by those who disagree with his policies, Musk replied“You assume they’re well-intentioned. They’re not. He wants to erode the very fabric of civilization. Soros hates humanity.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights group that tracks and combats incidents of anti-Semitism, criticized Musk’s comment, saying it “will embolden extremists.”
“Soros is often held up by the far right, using anti-Semitic tropes, as the source of the world’s problems,” Greenblat tweeted. “Seeing Elon Musk, regardless of his intent, feed this segment—comparing him to a Jewish supervillain, and claiming Soros ‘hates humanity’—is not just troubling, it’s dangerous: it will embolden extremists who are already creating anti-Jewish conspiracies and have sought to attack Soros and Jewish communities as a result.”
In response to Greenblatt’s tweet, Musk responded with tweets of his own. In one, Musk said: “Hey stop defaming me”. In the second, he so “ADL should just drop the ‘A’.”
In an interview on CNBC after Tesla’s shareholder meeting on Tuesday, Musk defended his tweets about Soros, including his claim that Soros hates humanity, which his opinion. Musk said so he has the right to tweet his opinions, even if it causes Twitter’s biggest source of revenue to flee. He said he “didn’t care” if his controversial tweets angered Tesla customers or Twitter advertisers.
“I’m going to 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 frequently tweeted inflammatory comments, including those supporting conspiracy theories.
Twitter has seen a sharp drop in ad revenue since Musk took over the company last year. Last week, Musk announced that NBCUniversal advertising chief Linda Yaccarino would replace him as CEO of Twitter.
Soros, 92, has long been a target of right-wing conspiracy theorists and anti-Semites. 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 the founder and the largest contributor to the Open Society Foundations, with a stated goal of working for justice, democratic governance and human rights. It has drawn the ire of some authoritarian regimes, including 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 along with a broader increase in incidents of anti-Semitic attacks. The ADL said U.S. anti-Semitic incidents reached their highest level last year since the group began recording them in 1979.
Some right-wing influencers in the US have embraced foreign 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 been criticized since taking over Twitter for allowing Nazi sympathizers to return to the social media platform as part of a broader, mass revocation of previously suspended accounts due to his stated policy of supporting “free speech.” Among those allowed back on Twitter was Andrew Anglin, a self-proclaimed 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 leadership. Musk called the reports from the two watchdog groups “absolutely false,” and claimed that “hatter impressions,” or the number of times a tweet containing hate speech has been seen, “continues to decline” since his early days of owning the company when the platform saw an increase in hate speech designed to test Musk’s tolerance.
Musk, who has nearly 140 million Twitter followers, has often reinforced right-wing tropes and some conspiracy theories on Twitter, including a baseless claim surrounding the violent attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (Musk later deleted his tweet.) Musk has also taken personal shots at those he disagrees with 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 bought 89,600 split-adjusted shares in the second quarter of 2022, and held them through the third quarter before buying another 242,000 shares in the final three months of 2022. But he sold his entire stake once in the first three months of this year, according to his latest filing last week.
Musk actually sold far more Tesla ( dividing himself in recent months as he dealt with mounting losses at Twitter, which he bought in October. He most recently sold 22 million shares in December. But he is still Tesla’s largest shareholder by far. )
— CNN’s Allison Morrow and Oliver Darcy contributed to this report.