Elon Musk has has denied what he says are “wild” and “utterly untrue” accusations after a report detailed a 2018 incident where a former SpaceX flight attendant alleged sexual misconduct by Elon on a company airplane.
In the report, published Thursday, Insider alleged SpaceX paid $250,000 in severance to a flight attendant who worked on SpaceX corporate jets after she made the sexual misconduct claim.
Citing a declaration from a friend of the flight attendant, neither of whom were identified, Insider reported the flight attendant accused Musk of asking her to give him a massage in a private room on an airplane in 2016. Once she was in the room, the declaration stated, Musk “exposed his genitals,” “touched her” and “offered to buy her a horse if she would ‘do more,’ ” Insider reported.
Reps for Musk and SpaceX did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
When reached for comment by Insider, Musk reportedly called the story a “politically motivated hit piece.”
“If I were inclined to engage in sexual harassment, this is unlikely to be the first time in my entire 30-year career that it comes to light,” he told the outlet.
The outlet reported Musk asked for more time to respond to the allegations as there was “a lot more to this story,” but that he did not respond with additional comments after their deadline for comment was extended.
Additionally, Insider reported SpaceX vice president of legal Christopher Cardaci told them, “I’m not going to comment on any settlement agreements.”
The flight attendant’s friend reportedly told Insider she was compelled by a sense of “responsibility” to provide the outlet with the docs, noting the flight attendant signed a non-disclosure agreement as part of the settlement.
“I absolutely felt a responsibility to come forward with it, especially now,” said the friend, who is not bound by the NDA her friend signed, according to Insider. “He is the richest man in the world. Someone with that level of power causing that kind of harm and then throwing some money at the situation, that’s not accountability. There are predators all over the world. But when someone is particularly wealthy and powerful, they literally have systems that are like a machine working for them, to set them up to be able to do whatever they want.”
In a series of Twitter posts, Musk — who said last week that his deal to buy the social media platform for $44 billion was on hold — continued to address the scandal.
“For the record, those wild accusations are utterly untrue,” he wrote in one thread, without specifying which accusations he was referring to.
In another message, Musk claimed “the attacks against me should be viewed through a political lens,” going on to allege the timing purposefully coincided with his bid to buy Twitter.
“They began brewing attacks of all kinds as soon as the Twitter acquisition was announced,” he wrote in another tweet. “In my 30 year career, including the entire MeToo era, there’s nothing to report, but, as soon as I say I intend to restore free speech to Twitter & vote Republican, suddenly there is …”
Musk, who spoke of free speech when the Twitter deal was announced, has since said he would lift the permanent ban on former President Donald Trump that was put in place following the riots at the U.S. Capitol. (When the ban was announced, Twitter shared that the decision was made “due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” and went on to cite two of Trump’s tweets as being in “violation of the Glorification of Violence Policy.”)
Musk has called the ban a “mistake,” saying that “permanent bans should be extremely rare and really reserved for accounts that are bots, or scam, spam accounts.”
The New York Times noted that around the time Insider reached out to Musk for comment, the billionaire told his followers on Twitter that “political attacks on me will escalate dramatically in coming months.”
John Cook, an Investigations editor at Insider, tweeted on Thursday that “for those interested, we reached out to the principals for comment regarding this story at ~9 a.m. eastern yesterday (Wednesday May 18).”
Musk’s Tweet warning of “political attacks” was shared on May 18 around 12:30 p.m. The Insider story was published the following day.
When reached for comment by CNBC, an Insider spokesperson said they stood by the report.
“We stand by our story, which is based on documents and interviews and which speaks for itself,” an Insider spokesperson told the outlet.
The timing of all this going public does seem motivated by current events, however the truth is the truth — if these allegations are factual.