Musk attacks ADL for saying his anti-Soros tweets will embolden antisemites

Twitter CEO says watchdog should ‘drop the A’ and be called the Defamation League, as ties between US billionaire and major Jewish organization have rapidly deteriorated

Twitter CEO Elon Musk is seen on stage as he speaks at the POSSIBLE marketing conference, April 18, 2023, in Miami Beach, Florida. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Twitter CEO Elon Musk is seen on stage as he speaks at the POSSIBLE marketing conference, April 18, 2023, in Miami Beach, Florida. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

JTA — Hours after tweeting that George Soros “hates humanity,” drawing rebuke from Israel’s Foreign Ministry and many others, US billionaire Elon Musk bashed the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), appearing to draw praise from a series of white supremacist accounts on Twitter, which he owns.

On Tuesday afternoon, Musk tweeted: “ADL should just drop the ‘A,’” meaning that the group, which is the most prominent antisemitism watchdog in the United States, should instead be named the “Defamation League.”

Musk’s tweet came after ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt criticized Musk’s remarks about Soros, marking the latest chapter in the roller-coaster relationship between the ADL and the Twitter CEO. When Musk was poised to buy the social media platform, Greenblatt praised him. But in the months since that acquisition, the ADL has been increasingly critical of Musk, accusing him of taking a lax attitude toward policing hate speech.

When asked for a response, the ADL pointed to Greenblatt’s statement from earlier in the day, in which he took Musk to task for his Soros remarks, including a tweet in which Musk compared the progressive megadonor and Holocaust survivor to a comic book villain.

Greenblatt tweeted that Musk’s comments “will embolden extremists who already contrive anti-Jewish conspiracies and have tried to attack Soros and Jewish communities as a result.”

Another Jewish organizational executive, American Jewish Committee CEO Ted Deutch, echoed that criticism, tweeting: “The lie that Jews want to destroy civilization has led to the persecution of Jewish people for centuries. Musk should know better.” (The shooter in the Pittsburgh synagogue attack in 2018 referenced a conspiracy theory about Soros.)

The current spat is a marked difference from Greenblatt’s attitude last October, when he praised Musk as “an amazing entrepreneur and extraordinary innovator” and as “the Henry Ford of our time.” Even though he later acknowledged that “the Henry Ford reference was wrong,” given that Ford was perhaps the most notorious antisemite in American history, Greenblatt added: “We want to be cautiously optimistic about how Musk will run the platform because he successfully has innovated other industries and tackled incredibly complex problems.”

Since then, the ADL has taken a more negative view. Less than a month after the Henry Ford analogy, the ADL called for an ad boycott of Twitter due to a spike in antisemitism on the site. In the months that have followed, the ADL has criticized Twitter for removing hate speech guardrails by dissolving an advisory body focused on “Trust and Safety” and by allowing antisemites who had been banned to return to the platform.

The Musk-ADL dynamic parallels the deteriorating relationship the ADL had with another social media giant, Facebook. Several years ago, the ADL worked with Facebook to curb hate speech, but it later led a high-profile ad boycott of the platform when it judged that Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, were not committed to preventing bigotry on the site.

And Musk is not the only public figure who has targeted the ADL amid broader criticism of the left. Recently fired Fox News host Tucker Carlson repeatedly criticized the group on his show after the ADL called on him to be ousted when he promoted an antisemitic conspiracy theory on his show. In December, Carlson claimed that the ADL, one of the country’s largest Jewish organizations, “extorted” companies for money. He said that Greenblatt leverages the ADL’s reputation for “moral authority and cash,” and threatens: “Send me money or I’ll call you names.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 2, 2017. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Musk’s tweet about the ADL appears to have unleashed yet more antisemitism on Twitter. In the hours after Musk posted the tweet, he garnered praise from a string of accounts posting antisemitic content, which shared his tweet with their own commentary.

An account called “White Power Ranger” tweeted: “The ADL is a jewish supremacist foreign lobby/spy group.” Another with an avatar of Pepe the Frog, a cartoon that has become a symbol of the alt-right, tweeted a cartoon of a traditional fascist symbol along with the words: “We’re back.” Another posted a GIF of Adolf Hitler smiling alongside the message: “Based.”

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