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Elon Musk calls claims of sexual misconduct ‘politically motivated’

Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, denies a report that he sexually harassed a flight attendant in 2016. (Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg News)

Elon Musk on Friday forcefully challenged a news report that he had sexually harassed a flight attendant aboard a corporate jet, allegations that the chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX dismissed as a “politically-motivated hit piece” intended to upend his contentious bid to buy Twitter.

The report, published Thursday by the online publication Insider, alleges that Musk’s aerospace firm paid a flight attendant $250,000 to settle a sexual misconduct claim against him in 2018. The woman was a member of the cabin crew on a contract basis for SpaceX’s corporate jet fleet at the time of the alleged incident, Insider reported, citing interviews and documents.

The Post has not independently verified the account, which according to Insider draws on a declaration signed by a friend of the flight attendant prepared in support of her claim, as well as email correspondence and other records. Neither is identified by name.

In a series of tweets that began Thursday and continued into Friday, Musk denied the report, calling it an effort to disrupt his $44 billion bid to buy Twitter, which has been cheered by many conservatives and bemoaned by many liberals.

“They began brewing attacks of all kinds as soon as the Twitter acquisition was announced,” Musk tweeted Friday morning. “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 …”

Tesla shares, which have fallen sharply since Musk publicly acknowledged his pursuit of Twitter in early April, tumbled another 8.7 percent Friday. The social media platform, meanwhile, was up 1.1 percent in afternoon trading.

According to Insider (formerly known as Business Insider), the flight attendant had been encouraged by her superiors to secure a masseuse license so she could give Musk massages. During a late 2016 flight to London aboard a Gulfstream G650ER, the report said the flight attendant told her friend, the billionaire asked her to come to his room “for a full body massage.”

When she arrived, the flight attendant found that Musk “was completely naked except for a sheet covering the lower half of his body.” During the massage, the friend’s declaration said, Musk “exposed his genitals” and then “touched her and offered to buy her a horse if she would ‘do more,’ referring to the performance of sex acts.”

The flight attendant, who rides horses, declined but continued with the massage. The friend’s declaration said the woman “is not for sale.”

The friend said that the flight attendant described the alleged incident during a hike they took together shortly after the trip, according to Insider. “She was really upset,” the friend said. “She didn’t know what to do.”

The report also says the woman’s $250,000 settlement was conditioned on a promise not to sue the company or discuss the allegations.

Insider said it reached out to SpaceX’s vice president of legal, Christopher Cardaci, who declined to comment. Musk eventually asked for more time to respond via email, Insider said, writing that there is “a lot more to this story.” The publication said that it extended the deadline but that Musk did not comment further.

Neither Musk nor SpaceX immediately responded to requests for comment from The Washington Post.

Musk commented at length on Twitter, however, writing that “those wild accusations are utterly untrue” and issuing “a challenge to this liar who claims their friend saw me ‘exposed’ — describe just one thing, anything at all (scars, tattoos, …) that isn’t known by the public. She won’t be able to do so, because it never happened.”

“Moreover,” he added, “the ‘friend’ in question who gave the interview to [Insider], is a far left activist/actress in LA with a major political axe to grind.”

“The attacks against me should be viewed through a political lens — this is their standard (despicable) playbook — but nothing will deter me from fighting for a good future and your right to free speech,” Musk tweeted.

He ended the thread: “Finally, we get to use Elongate as scandal name. It’s kinda perfect.”