Elon Musk on Monday boosted the dangerous, years-old “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, just days after being roundly criticized and facing an advertiser exodus following his embrace of an antisemitic conspiracy theory.
In a post Monday, an X user attempted to link the founder of Media Matters — the progressive media watchdog that last week identified ads for major brands running alongside pro-Nazi content on X — to the owner of the “Pizzagate restaurant.” Musk replied: “Weird.” By replying, Musk called the post to the attention of his more than 160 million followers on X.
Pizzagate is an anti-Hillary Clinton conspiracy theory that spun up on 4chan, Reddit, Twitter and other platforms in the final days before the 2016 US presidential election. Believers imagined a pedophilia ring supposedly being run out of a Washington, DC pizza shop that involved Clinton and other Democrats.
The wildly false claims were behind self-appointed “investigator” Edgar Maddison Welch’s decision in December of that year to fire an assault rifle inside the restaurant. (No one was hurt, and Welch later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison.)
It’s just the latest conspiracy theory Musk has drawn attention to using X. Musk last week agreed with an antisemitic post on his social media platform X, endorsing the claim that Jewish communities push “hatred against Whites.” Musk last year also gave credence to a fringe conspiracy theory about the violent attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, by posting a link to an article full of baseless claims about Paul Pelosi.
Musk last week faced backlash from the White House and others for engaging with an antisemitic conspiracy theory.
“It is unacceptable to repeat the hideous lie behind the most fatal act of Antisemitism in American history at any time, let alone one month after the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement to CNN.
On Friday, at least a half dozen major advertisers, including media giants Disney, Paramount and NBCUniversal, halted their spending on X. IBM also suspended advertising on the platform after the Media Matters report showed its ad appeared alongside pro-Nazi content.
Musk has pushed back at idea that he is antisemitic. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said in a post Sunday. Musk’s company has also claimed that Media Matters’ report was misleading and that it has taken steps to combat antisemitism and discrimination on the platform. X on Monday sued Media Matters, accusing it of distorting how likely it is for ads to appear beside extremist content on X.
However, X has not removed the pro-Nazi accounts mentioned in Media Matters’ report, instead saying that their posts had little engagement and that they would no longer be eligible for monetization.