Billionaire Elon Musk took to Twitter on Thursday night to denounce claims in a news report that he sexually harassed a flight attendant on a private jet in 2016 as “totally untrue”.
Business Insider reported earlier Thursday that Musk’s SpaceX paid $250,000 in 2018 to settle a sexual harassment claim from an unnamed private flight attendant who accused Musk of exposing himself to her.
The article quoted a person who said she was a friend of the flight attendant. The friend had provided a statement as part of the private settlement process, according to the article. Business Insider did not name the friend or the flight attendant.
“I challenge this liar who claims that her friend saw me ‘exposed’ describing a single thing, anything (scars, tattoos, …) that is not known to the public. She will not be able to not do it, because it never happened,” Musk tweeted.
Reuters was unable to verify the Business Insider account. Musk and SpaceX did not respond to Reuters requests for comment on Business Insider’s story or on Musk’s tweets.
Business Insider editor John Cook said on Twitter that the website reached out to Musk for comment on the story at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning. About 20 minutes later, Musk tweeted that “attacks on me will escalate dramatically in the months to come”.
The Business Insider story wasn’t published until the next day.
According to the report, in addition to allegedly exposing himself, Musk rubbed the flight attendant’s thigh and offered to buy her a horse if she “did more” during a massage in flight, Business Insider quoted the flight attendant’s friend as saying.
The flight attendant came to believe that her refusal to accept Musk’s proposal hurt her chances of working at SpaceX and prompted her to hire a lawyer in 2018, according to Business Insider.
The rocket company reached the settlement out of court and included a nondisclosure agreement that kept the flight attendant from talking about it, Business Insider said.
Musk, who is also Tesla’s chief executive and is in the midst of a controversial effort to buy Twitter, said Wednesday he would vote Republican instead of Democrat, predicting that a “backstabbing campaign against me” would follow.
In the Business Insider article, Musk reportedly said the flight attendant story was a “politically motivated blockbuster play” and that there was “a lot more to this story.”
On Thursday night, Musk tweeted for the first time, “Attacks on me must be viewed politically – that’s their standard (despicable) playbook – but nothing will deter me from fighting for a good future and yours. right to freedom of expression.” In the initial tweet, he didn’t specifically mention the allegations in the Business Insider article.
“And, for the record, these savage accusations are totally untrue,” Musk added in another tweet.
He also tweeted that the Business Insider article was supposed to interfere with the Twitter acquisition.