Some of the biggest advertisers in the U.S. are worried about the presence of Twitter CEO Elon Musk at an upcoming marketing conference, according to a new report from Semafor. Why would these companies be concerned? They reportedly object to the billionaire’s “racist rhetoric.”
Semafor cites a private email thread between representatives at large companies in the lead up to Musk attending the Possible conference in Miami, Florida later this month. Musk is scheduled to be interviewed by NBCU ad chief Linda Yaccarino.
“While I am a huge supporter of free speech and enterprise we can not ignore the impact of such hate speech. I especially can’t ignore it as a black woman,” Colgate-Palmolive VP Diana Haussling is quoted as writing in the email exchanges with other top executives, according to Semafor.
The report also quotes Haussling as being worried about the, “often racist rhetoric of Elon Musk.”
But it wasn’t just Haussling at Colgate-Palmolive who was nervous about Musk’s presence at the marketing conference. Semafor also quotes the concerns of an executive at grocery chain Albertsons, Kristi Argyilan, who worried about the “reputational risk” of others attending the conference.
Semafor notes the executives didn’t give any specifics about what comments by Musk they deemed racist or otherwise objectionable, but the billionaire CEO has been a lightning rod of controversy since he took over Twitter in October 2022. One recent dust-up involved the cartoonist behind Dilbert, Scott Adams, who was dropped by every major newspaper in the country after he advocated for racial segregation.
“Based on the current way things are going, the best advice I would give to white people is to get the hell away from Black people,” Adams said in the video from February.
Musk came to the defense of Adams, calling the media “racist” for dropping Adams in the country’s biggest newspapers. However, it wasn’t really clear how newspapers deciding to drop Dilbert over racist comments by the cartoon’s creator could have been racist.
There have been plenty of other controversies around race at Twitter, including an incident where Musk defended the police officer who shot an unarmed Black man in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. Musk also made fun of old Twitter t-shirts that read “Stay Woke,” printed back in 2015 before the term “woke” became a political football.
Twitter responded to a request for comment Thursday afternoon with a poop emoji, an automated response that goes out to any reporter who emails the company. Musk was rather proud of setting up that auto-responder, according to comments he made on Twitter at the time.