SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet late Thursday that “wild accusations” against him are not true after a Business Insider report said the aerospace company had paid $250,000 in severance to a private jet flight attendant who accused the billionaire of sexual misconduct.
The report, which cited interviews and documents obtained by Insider, said the woman claimed that during a massage she was giving Musk he exposed his erect penis, touched her thigh without her consent and offered to buy her a horse if she performed sex acts. CNBC could not independently verify those allegations.
While Musk did not specify which accusations he was referring to in his tweets, he told Insider there was “a lot more to this story” as he asked the publication for more time to respond to the article’s claims, according to the outlet.
“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,” Musk wrote to Insider, according to the story. He also said its article was a “politically motivated hit piece,” the outlet reported.
Insider reported that it moved the publication deadline after Musk requested more time to respond, but that he never made further comment on the allegations. Christopher Cardaci, legal affairs vice president at SpaceX, was quoted by Insider as saying, “I’m not going to comment on any settlement agreements.”
Later, Musk, without referring directly to the report, tweeted that “for the record, those wild accusations are utterly untrue.”
“The attacks against me should be viewed through a political lens – this is their standard (despicable) playbook,” he tweeted.
The Insider report comes as Musk, who is also CEO of Tesla, is engaged in an effort to purchase social media giant Twitter. Friday morning, Musk tied the controversy to his deal to buy Twitter. “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 …” he wrote.
Insider reported that the alleged incident occurred in Musk’s room aboard a SpaceX jet on a flight to London in late 2016, after the world’s richest person asked her to give him a “full body massage.”
CNBC reached out to Musk and SpaceX for comment on those allegations but did not immediately hear back.
“We stand by our story, which is based on documents and interviews and which speaks for itself,” an Insider spokesperson said in response to a request for comment.
The allegations reported Thursday are detailed in a declaration signed by a friend of the flight attendant.
That declaration was made to support a complaint that the woman’s lawyer had made to SpaceX’s human resources department in 2018 after she felt that her work opportunities at the company dwindled after she declined to engage in sexual contact with Musk, according to Insider.
Neither the friend, who spoke with Insider, nor the woman, who declined to be interviewed by the publication, was identified by name in the article. The flight attendant signed a nondisclosure agreement as part of her settlement with SpaceX, according to the report.
Insider reported that the friend said the flight attendant told her the story about Musk shortly after it happened.
The outlet reported that the friend said she decided to reveal the woman’s allegation without first asking the flight attendant because she felt obliged as a survivor of sexual assault to disclose the claim against Musk.
Insider reported that the flight attendant’s complaint to SpaceX’s HR department was “resolved quickly after a session with a mediator that Musk personally attended.”
The news outlet said Musk, SpaceX and the flight attendant in November 2018 entered into an agreement to have the woman paid $250,000 in severance in exchange for promising not to file a lawsuit connected to her claims.
— CNBC’s Weizhen Tan and Michael Sheetz contributed to this report.