New York (CNN) Elon Musk launched a baseless Twitter attack on George Soros, a frequent target for antisemitic conspiracy theories, accusing the financier of hating humanity days after Soros revealed he had sold a small stake in Tesla.
While Musk’s remarks did not mention the billionaire philanthropist’s ethnicity, Musk has been criticized for dangerous rhetoric that could potentially fuel further attacks on Soros.
In a tweet Late Monday, Musk compared him to X-Men villain Magneto, who like Soros is a Holocaust survivor, according to the comic book back story for the character. When a Twitter user defended Soros as a well-intentioned critic of those who disagreed with his politics, Musk replied“You thought it was a good intention. No. He wants to destroy the very fabric of civilization. Soros hates humanity.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights group that monitors and combats incidents of antisemitism, criticized Musk’s comment and said it would “embolden extremists.”
“Soros is often held up by the far right, using antisemitic tropes, as the source of the world’s problems,” Greenblat tweeted. “To see Elon Musk, whatever his intentions, feed this segment – comparing him to a Jewish supervillain, saying that Soros ‘hates humanity’ – is not only alarming, it is dangerous: it will strengthen inside extremists who are already thinking of anti-Jewish conspiracies and have tried to attack Soros and Jewish communities as a result.”
In response to Greenblatt’s tweet, Musk responded with his own tweets. In one, Musk said, “Hey stop defaming me.” In the second, he said “ADL should just drop the ‘A.'”
In an interview with CNBC following Tuesday’s Tesla shareholder meeting, Musk defended tweets about Soros, including his claim that Soros hates humanity, as his opinion. Musk said that he has the right to tweet his opinions, even if it makes Twitter’s biggest source of revenue run away. He said he “couldn’t care less” if his controversial tweets drew the ire of Tesla customers or Twitter advertisers.
“I’m going to say what I want to say, and if that means losing money, so be it,” Musk said in the interview.
Musk frequently tweets inflammatory comments, including those that support conspiracy theories.
Twitter has seen a sharp decline in advertising revenue since Musk took over the company last year. Last week, Musk announced that NBCUniversal ad chief Linda Yaccarino would replace him as CEO of Twitter.
Soros, 92, is a a longtime target of the right wing conspiracy theorists and antisemites. 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 main contributor of the Open Society Foundations, with the stated purpose of working for justice, democratic governance, and human rights. This raised the ire of several authoritarian regimes, including that of Victor Orban, prime minister of Soros’ native Hungary. Orban is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putinaccused of his own authoritarian moves in Hungary.
Attacks on Soros have increased in recent years alongside a broader rise in incidents of antisemitic attacks. The ADL said that US antisemitic incidents reach their highest level last year since the group began recording them in 1979.
Some right-wing influencers the US has embraced authoritarian leaders in other countries opposed by Soros, such as Orban. Former President Donald Trump and many Republicans attacked New York district attorney Alvin Bragg for bringing criminal charges against Trump was quick to point out that Bragg had received campaign support from Soros.
Musk has come under criticism since he took over Twitter for allowing Nazi sympathizers to return to the social media platform as part of a broader, sweeping ban on previously suspended accounts because of what he said that policy of supporting “free speech.” Among those allowed to return to Twitter are Andrew Anglina self-professed 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 amount of hate speech on Twitter has grown exponentially under Musk’s stewardship. Musk called the two watchdog groups’ reports “absolutely false,” saying “impressions of hate speech,” or the number of times a tweet containing hate speech was viewed, “continues to declining” since early in his ownership of the company when the platform saw a spike in hate speech designed to test Musk’s tolerance.
Musk, who has nearly 140 million followers on Twitter, often raises right-wing tropes and some conspiracy theories on Twitter, including baseless claims surrounding a violent attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (Musk later deleted his tweet.) Musk also took personal shots at people he disagreed with or those who criticized his companies.
Soros’ investment in Tesla is 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 an additional 242,000 shares in the last three months of 2022. But sold He sold his entire stake sometime in the first three months of this year, according to his most recent filing last week.
Musk actually sold more Tesla (TSLA) He has divided himself in recent months as he deals with mounting losses at Twitter, which he bought in October. He is the last 22 million shares were sold in December. But he still remains Tesla’s largest shareholder for now.
— CNN’s Allison Morrow and Oliver Darcy contributed to this report.