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The MRC Flips Over Elon Musk, Part 20: Anti-Semitic Cleanup

When Elon Musk endorsed an anti-Semitic tweet and vulgarly dissed advertisers scared off by the growing extremism at Twitter/X, the Media Research Center had to go into defense mode (when it wasn't ignoring his anti-Semitism altogether).

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/29/2024

The Elon Musk PR team at the Media Research Center took it hard as people pointed out how Musk has mismanaged Twitter (well, X) as his purchase of the social media website approached its first anniversary. Tim Graham had a major whinefest in an Oct. 28 post:
Liberal reporters really hate how Twitter isn't a reinforcement and censorship tool for them any more. The Washington Post published a "Crappy Anniversary" piece headlined "A year later, Musk’s X is tilting right. And sinking."

A team of four reporters -- Will Oremus, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Sarah Ellison, and Jeremy B. Merrill -- reporter Twitter is sinking, based on "interviews" and leaks: 
The number of people actively tweeting has dropped by more than 30 percent, according to previously unreported data obtained by The Washington Post, and the company — which the entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX has renamed X — is hemorrhaging advertisers and revenue, interviews show.
There are a bunch of people fired by Musk commenting in this story. But here's the part they really hate....displacing the so-called "mainstream media."


And who does the Post bring in to say Twitter is no longer trustworthy? An Obama Bro! Oh sure, trust him when he claims it wasn't a happy place for Democrats and the Left! 

And who did Graham bring in to boost his whinefest? Christina Pushaw, longtime spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for whom the MRC operates a Defense Brigade.

Graham went on to add whataboutism to his whine: "There again the liberals who 'nonpartisan' NewsGuard as the gold standard -- when we noticed the fake news on the 'Israeli airstrike' didn't dent any '100 percent' ratings for liberal outlets." The MRC's war on NewsGuard, meanwhile, is loud, lame and partisan.

When the New York Times offered up a similar critique of Musk-era Twitter, It was Clay Waters to serve up a whinefest in an Oct. 30 post:

First the Washington Post, then the New York Times went after the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, one year after techno-entrepreneur Elon Musk purchased it and shone a light on the previous regimes squelching of conservative voices in favor of liberal “blue checks” and other anointed ones, and possibly swinging the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden (see “Twitter Files”).

Reporters Steven Lee Myers, Stuart Thompson, and Tiffany Hsu collaborated on the “interactive” online project “The Consequences of Elon Musk’s Ownership of X.” (At least the Times only needed three reporters to conjure up fear and loathing against Musk and X; the Post required four.)
The introduction featured three blocks of text interspersed among graphics, demonstrating this was less a technology news story than an anti-Musk rant:


The Times also cited a Harvard journal, The Misinformation

Even worse, the article argued, Mr. Musk’s changes appear to be boosting the engagements of the most contentious users.

By “contentious,” read “conservative.”

Waters didn't dispute that Musk was boosting and amplifying right-wingers.
Luis Cornelio served up an Oct. 30 press release for his employer with a letter asking Musk to fight "censorship":

MRC Free Speech America Vice President Dan Schneider joined other free speech advocates in signing an open letter to X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk, calling on him to stand against government censorship. 

The letter, led by the Alliance Defending Freedom and signed by over 50 pro-free speech advocates, called on Musk to expand his promise to protect the First Amendment on X by allocating legal funds to protect individuals affected by state-sponsored censorship. Specifically, the letter cited growing concerns about laws aimed to prosecute individuals who go against the government-approved narrative on numerous fronts.

“Free speech is broadly protected by every major human rights treaty; however, in the West, speech increasingly is targeted by ‘hate speech’ laws,” read the letter. “In other regions, blasphemy laws target minority groups, sometimes with the sentence of death. These repressive laws are two sides of the same coin—both punish those who speak out against state-approved views.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, The Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon, Fox News Contributor & Host Sara Carter, Human Events Senior Editor Jack Posobiec and prominent Spanish-language political scientist Agustín Laje also signed the letter.

The idea that any of these people are "pro-free speech advocates" is ludicrous. These are all right-wing advocates who care only about their own "free speech"; most of them actively oppose the free speech of anyone who dares to disagree with them. They also don't explain why it's "censorship" to correct hate and misinformation online.

From there, it was Musk PR mode to counter all that criticism. It took both Autumn Johnson and Tom Olohan to write a Nov. 1 bit of stenography about Musk attacking George Soros again, this time asserting that Soros "fundamentally hates humanity" during an interview with Joe Rogan. A separate post by Johnson and Olohan the same day, also taken from Rogan's interview with Musk, cheered Musk for having "slammed the 'death cult' in charge of social media platforms" and having "accused leftist elitists of  going 'too far' in the hatred of mankind." Johnson and Olohan couldn't find room, however, to notate the part of the interview where Musk broke into song after several seconds of awkward silence rather than answer a question about the Taliban having a presence on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the MRC's freakout over Twitter's Community Notes continued with a Nov. 3 post by Catherine Salgado declaring Twitter demonetizing posts with Community notes attacks to be among the worst "censorship" of October:

X owner Elon Musk announced on Oct. 29: “Making a slight change to creator monetization: Any posts that are corrected by @CommunityNotes become ineligible for revenue share. The idea is to maximize the incentive for accuracy over sensationalism.” While Community Notes can at times add helpful information to posts that are inaccurate, Community Note fact checks have also asserted inaccurate or incomplete information. In addition to the initial censorship that Community Notes created, Musk’s latest announcement adds a new form of financial censorship on X.

Yes, Salgado bizarrely thinks fact-checking is "censorship."

Musk's anti-Semitic tweet

The MRC has been a reliable PR agent for Elon Musk, fawning over his every pearl of wisdom and deflecting any criticism of him. But on Nov. 15, Musk endorsed an anti-Semitic tweet attacking "western Jewish populations" by saying, "You have said the actual truth." Musk faced near-universal condemnation over his tweet (except from racists like Nick Fuentes as well as other anti-Semites), and it fueled an exodus of advertisers from Twitter/X -- even the company that formerly employed Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino.

Despite the MRC aggressively criticizing a surge of anti-Semitism since the Hamas attack on Israel (and despite Musk making the situation worse by lashing out again at the ADL, which the MRC has not only previously approved of, it called in racist cartoonist Scott Adams to help with defense), the MRC's initial action was ... to ignore it. Three days after Musk's offending tweet, a Nov. 18 column by Christian Toto touted a planned film about Musk and fretted that it wouldn't be a right-wing hagiography:

It’s impossible to escape Elon Musk these days.

His Tesla vehicles share the roads we drive every day. His grandiose statements touch on hot-button issues like A.I. and space exploration, subjects we can’t stop thinking about.

His purchase of X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, revolutionized the way we speak in the 21st century.

Musk richly deserves a biopic all his own, and he’s getting one courtesy of Oscar-nominee Darren Aronofsky.

A24 optioned Walter Issacson’s new biography of Musk, the controversial CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, which will be turned into a film adaptation. Aronofsky is set to direct and produce the film with his production company Protozoa Pictures.


Here’s the big wrinkle to the story. The Left loathes Musk. Pure, unadulterated hate.

The billionaire publicly turned against Democrats in recent months. That did him few favors in La La Land. More alarmingly, Musk is a fierce proponent of free speech.

He’s chummy with right-leaning satirists at The Babylon Bee. He drops by the podcast studio of “The Joe Rogan Experience” to talk free expression, among other topics.

And he exposed the chronic censorship happening behind the scenes at Twitter, tasking left-leaning journalists to chronicle it all via The Twitter Files.

The modern Left flinches from free speech like a vampire reaction to garlic or Holy Water. It explains why the media, as progressive as any DNC event, skewers Musk at every opportunity.

Will Aronofsky bend to that pressure from his fellow travelers? Or will he recognize Musk’s story as a complicated one that deserves to be treated fairly?

Toto did admit that "the enigmatic billionaire is far from perfect," particularly taking note of his being "the father of 11 children with three different women" and that he likes "throwing ideas into the public space and backpedaling of something doesn’t stick" -- but he was completely silent about Musk's endorsement of an anti-Semitic attack.

Autumn Johnson served up more Musk PR in a Nov. 21 post:

Elon Musk, the owner of the “X” platform (formerly known as Twitter), said his team will do “whatever it takes” to support the free speech of its users.

Musk’s comments were in response to a report from the Financial Times detailing X’s defense of an Illinois student who was reportedly threatened with disciplinary action by his university over tweets he made on the platform. Musk previously promised to pay the legal fees of anyone who was professionally reprimanded for speech on his platform.

“We will do whatever it takes to support your right to free speech!” he declared on Thursday[.]

Johnson further gushed that "Musk originally purchased the platform with a promise to protect speech online," but she too censored the fact that he endorsed an anti-Semitic tweet.

Johnson was in furious distraction mode in another Nov. 21 post touting Musk's alleged efforts to fight anti-Semitism on Twitter:

Billionaire Elon Musk says “X,” formerly known as Twitter, will suspend any user who calls for the genocide of Jewish communities.

“Yes, decolonization” necessarily implies a Jewish genocide, thus it is unacceptable to any reasonable person,” Musk tweeted on Nov. 15 in agreement with a tweet of editor and Manhattan Institute Fellow Colin Wright discussing the origin of the term.

Musk was responding to a comment he made earlier last week when he said that the term “decolonization” implied Jewish genocide.


In a Nov. 14 press release, X touted its actions to tackle antisemitism. “We’ve taken action under our Violent and Hateful Entities policy to remove over 3,000 accounts by violent entities in the region, including Hamas, since the start of the conflict,” the platform’s X safety team wrote in a press statement. “In parallel, as we outlined in our update on this topic in September, we have expanded our proactive measures to automatically remediate against antisemitic content and provided our agents worldwide with a refresher course on antisemitism.”

Johnson failed to mention that anti-Semitism has festered on Twitter ever since Musk took it over, and again she censored any mention of Musk endorsing an anti-Semitic tweet.

Apparently realizing the controversy over Musk's tweet wasn't going to go away, the MRC belatedly talked about it. A Nov. 21 post by Tom Olohan finally addressed the tweet -- a full six days after it was made -- by calling in Jewish right-winger Ben Shapiro to lamely explain it away (while not quoting what the anti-Semitic tweet actually said or explaining how, exactly, Musk endorsed it) and hurling whataboutism:

The Daily Wire editor emeritus Ben Shapiro put recent comments by X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk into context while asserting that Musk’s critics routinely ignore egregious anti-Semitism. 

During the Nov. 16 edition of The Ben Shapiro Show, Shapiro addressed the leftist media pile-on against Musk, suggesting that accusations of anti-Semitism against the X owner were nakedly political. Musk had commented on someone else’s post, drawing fire from the left who tried to claim the original post was anti-Semitic. 

Shapiro defended Musk’s line of thought, defending him from accusations of radical anti-Semitism. “It is true, obviously, that certain Jewish organizations have bought into and promoted things like diversity, equity and inclusion, which are gross distortions of the American Dream” Shapiro said. “Nobody hates DEI more than I do. There are certain Jewish groups that are liberal in orientation who have supported that sort of stuff. Many of those groups have also pushed for open borders. It is also true that some of those organizations are now realizing post-Oct. 7 that actually open immigration for people who hate Jews on an intersectional basis was pretty stupid.”


Shapiro went on to detail further incidents of anti-Semitism that leftists in the media ignore, suggesting that they downplay bigoted behavior when it hurts them and tout it when it serves to harm their political enemies—even when it’s untrue. “Thus the same media — leaping on both Trump and Musk — have been downplaying the open Jew-hatred and massive pro-Hamas protests around the globe, instead propagating lies about Israel’s supposed human rights violations,” said Shapiro. “Instead, they’re focusing in on their political enemies, like Trump and Musk, and deeming them the acolytes of Hitler. Meanwhile, the actual Hitler acolytes who are out there waving Mein Kampf — they’re like — ‘Those people, I mean, they are oppressed and brown.’” 

Shapiro also gave the media some free advice. He said that leftists crying foul now might be believable if they actually called out the real anti-Semites in the world instead of remaining silent.

If Shapiro served up a coherent defense of Musk's tweet, it's not clear from Olohan's post. And just because others are more explicitly anti-Semitic doesn't negate Musk's anti-Semitism, especially given that no Hamas terrorist is the world's richest man who runs a giant social-media site.

Vulgar diss of advertisers

There is so much bad news regarding Elon Musk that the MRC -- who continues to hero-worship him -- is having trouble trying to spin away his increasing extremism. Meanwhile, that bad news continued to pile up: He nastily insulted Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky for seeking aid to fight off Russia's invasion of his country, he's trying to implement new subscription schemes to replace the advertisers he scared off with his right-wing extremism, and he has gotten caught shadowbanning his critics.

Again, the MRC doesn't want to talk about any of that, even though it has previously criticized alleged shadowbanning pre-Musk, and it even mocked a commentator for arguing that Musk will shadowban liberals (that sure didn't age well). It will, however, defend Musk's meltdown over the aforementioned advertisers fleeing Twitter over all the hate. Tom Olohan was on spin patrol in a Nov. 30 post:

Pro-free speech advocates showed their support for X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk after he let advertisers know how he really felt about their anti-free speech blackmail campaign. 

During a Nov. 29 interview with leftist Squawk Box co-anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin, Musk made clear that he would not be deterred by advertiser boycotts. Musk told Sorkin, “If someone is going to try to blackmail me with advertising— blackmail me with money? -–, go f*** yourself. Go f*** yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is.” Musk’s comment came in response to pressing questions about how some companies, including Walt Disney Corporation, pulled advertising on X. After Musk’s statement, past victims of censorship and proponents of free speech spoke up to support Musk.

Rather than admit that Musk's insult was counterproductive as well as immature -- why would anyone advertise with a platform whose owner disdains them in such a vulgar manner? -- Olohan hyped those "pro-free speech advocates" (actually hate-filled right-wing activists) praising Musk and pledging to buy adds on Twitter:

Praising Musk’s pushback, The Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon responded, “This is how you handle woke bullies. You refuse to give them what they want because what they want is your integrity,” before promising to double advertising spending on X.

Echoing Dillon’s response, creator of Libs of TikTok Chaya Raichik, reposted the exchange, calling it “the most incredible clip you will watch today,” and saying that she couldn’t stop watching it, before passing on Musk’s message to boycotting advertisers herself.

The Daily Wire host Michael Knowles weighed in on the Nov. 30 edition of The Michael Knowles Show, to say that Musk was right to push back against advertisers. Knowles asked his listeners, “If the richest man in the world is not allowed to speak his mind.  If the richest man in the world is not even allowed to let other people speak the truth as we see it, then why even go on pretending that we live in anything resembling a free country anymore?"

Pundits such as The Daily Wire Editor Emeritus Ben Shapiro, Daily Wire host Matt Walsh, Louder with Crowder host Steven Crowder and Benny Johnson also chimed in to praise Musk.

Olohan didn't mention that Knowles and Raichik are famous for their homophobia and that Crowder is famous for verbally abusing his estranged wife -- let alone explain why anyone would be proud to have such people as advertisers. Olohan also censored any mention of the hate and anti-Semitism that's rampant on Twitter and even spread by Musk himself that's making advertisers flee the platform.

In usual MRC fashion, it was angry that people pointed out Musk's immature rage. Curtis Houck complained in a Nov. 30 post:

Reacting Thursday morning to Wednesday night’s bombshell Elon Musk interview at The New York Times DealBook Summit, NBC’s Today co-host Hoda Kotb and CNBC’s Squawk Box co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin, The Times columnist who interviewed Musk, described it as an illustration of Musk’s “demonic side” and “version” as Musk blasted corporations who’ve pulled advertising from X.

The blowback came after a November 15 X post by Musk in which he responded favorably to an anti-Semitic trope (despite his apologies).

Sorkin was teed up by co-host Savannah Guthrie, who remarked that Musk is “in the middle of this fire” of controversy, but didn’t “mince words, shall we say.” Sorkin obviously agreed, calling the interview “fascinating” and confirming he “was speechless when” Musk dropped multiple f-bombs in telling off (liberal) corporations.

“I do encourage people to see the whole thing because, in many ways, I think you got to see the full Elon Musk. I think you saw that Elon Musk is many people. You can see the Einstein and sort of Steve Jobs version of Elon Musk,” Sorkin added.

On the other hand, Sorkin opined, viewers saw “almost a demonic version of Elon Musk. And the idea is — the question is: Can people hold all of these ideas in their head and can they be in the same person? What’s so interesting to me he sent saying, I don’t care if I am loved or I am hated, but what I kept trying to get back to, do you care about being trusted?”

Moments later, Kotb doubled down on this label: “You talked about demonic — the demonic side. He talked about his own demons. Like, what did you glean about that part of him?”

Houck was dishonest about the nature of Musk's "apologies" for endorsing an anti-Semitic tweet: There was only one apology, and he didn't make it until earlier in the conference in which he vulgarly attacked his advertisers -- 15 days after the original tweet.

Jorge Bonilla whined further that Musk was feeling the consequences of his own actions in a Dec. 1 post:

NBC Nightly News presented an oddly cobbled together news item on Elon Musk that, more than anything, seemed intent on extending the controversy over a recent post and further instigating an ad war against X.


So what the report did is that it glued several things together: Elon Musk’s interview with Aaron Ross Sorkin of CNBC wherein he told various corporations to go blank themselves, the long-awaited release of the Tesla Cybertruck (NBC were the only ones to report that tonight), and the ongoing controversy over X advertising resulting from a Musk post that was perceived as antisemitic. 

Bonilla complained that the report included only Musk saying he was sorry and not the lengthy entirety of Musk's "clarifying remarks" about his endorsement of anti-Semitism, which he soft-pedaled as merely being "perceived as antisemitic." He then seemed to excuse Musk's anti-Semitism because he's purportedly making Twitter safe for "free speech":

That’s a far different picture than “I’m sorry for that tweet or post”. And having part of that statement in a tear sheet isn’t the same as video. The tone is entirely different in what the reporter is trying to convey. 

This is an item meant to keep the controversy alive, and to further instigate the advertising boycott against X, a site that has done its level best to defend free speech and regain its place as the digital public square since being acquired by Musk.

Of course, free speech does not equate to being free of consequences for that speech. Bonilla doesn't seem to understand that part -- and, per his employer's demands, the last thing he wants is to keep this controversy alive.

Quiet about Media Matters lawsuit
The MRC loves it when Elon Musk gets all litigious -- it cheered when Musk sued the Center for Countering Digital Hate for exposing how hate and lies on Twitter (well, X) have spread since Musk took it over, and it so eagerly hyped Musk's threat to sue the Anti-Defamation League for pointing out anti-Semitism on Twitter that it called in racist cartoonist Scott Adams as backup. So you'd think it would be all over Musk's threat to file a "thermonuclear" lawsuit against Media Matters, which he ultimately made good on (though past his original declared timeline), for its research showing ads from major advertisers being placed next to tweets filled with hate speech and neo-Nazi views, which caused several of those advertisers to drop their ads. The presumed goal of Musk in suing his critics, of course, is to intimidate them into silence and to play victim so right-wingers will come to the defense of the world's richest man (mission accomplished).

But the MRC has remained silent about the lawsuit. Media Matters is the liberal counterpart to the MRC (though it produces trustworthy and better quality content), so you'd think it would want to take the opportunity to knock its competition down a peg. The MRC, though, has an odd habit of trying to pretend Media Matters doesn't exist, so references to it are relatively sparse, and it doesn't refer to Media Matters unless it feels it has to. A Nov. 5 post by Tim Graham, for example, is all about the defensive response of right-wing radio host Mark Levin to a report from "the leftist site Media Matters" quoting him claiming that the parents of CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer "weren't victims in one way or another, of the Holocaust" though his parents were, in fact, Holocaust survivors; when CNN hyped that bogus claim, Graham sneered that "CNN and Media Matters are closely aligned." (By contrast, the MRC and Fox News are so closely aligned that several former MRC employees now work for Fox News -- something that cannot be said about Media Matters and CNN.) A Nov. 8 column by Graham, meanwhile, complained that Media Matters, "a passionate LGBT advocacy group," pointed out that violent threats against people and organizations often follow the highlighting of them on the virulently homophobic Twitter account Libs of TikTok.

That, as of this writing, is the most recent mention of Media Matters at the MRC's NewsBusters; Musk's lawsuit was filed Nov. 20. Its further-right counterpart, MRCTV, didn't do a story on the lawsuit itself, but there was a Nov. 21 post by Nick Kangadis on how Texas attorney general Ken Paxton opened a partisan investigation into the group. Kangadis labeled Media Matters as a "far-left outlet" without explanation, and he uncritically quoted Paxton calling it "a radical anti-free speech organization." If the MRC thinks Media Matters is "far-left," can we call the MRC "far-right"?

So why the silence? Perhaps because it knows that, by the same logic Musk used to sue Media Matters, the MRC could be sued by its targets -- particularly Google.

Over the past year or so, it has deliberately misinterpreted the results of a study about how Gmail works, claiming that it shows how Gmail's spam filter marks more conservative-related fundraising emails as spam than liberal lines -- even though the study authors say that's not what the study found, and even though the alleged bias goes away as Gmail learns from user behavior. It also whined when the lawsuit got tossed out of court. The MRC has also issued another partisan attack on Google, alleging that using a specific search term that no normal human would actually use, the results didn't rank Republican candidates high enough or that certain presidential candidates weren't ranked highly enough. One key claim in Musk's lawsuit against Media Matters was that its finding of prominent ads next to hate speech was not the experience of the typical user and Media Matters gamed things to achieve its results. The MRC can similarly be sued by Google for gaming its so-called research to crafting a search term to achieve the biased results it wanted, which it then exploited for partisan gain, which then may have had the effect of driving customers away from Google.

The MRC presumably doesn't want to be sued by Google over its shoddy, partisan work designed for political gain over actual fairness, and so it would not like to remind people of said shoddy, partisan work that -- one might call it fraudulent manipulation, as Paxton accused Media Matters of doing -- may have opened it to legal exposure. That, along with its general reluctance to acknowledge that there's competition in the media-monitoring space, is the likely reason it doesn't want to get much prominence to Musk's lawsuit against Media Matters.

(Disclosure: I used to work for Media Matters.)

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