Business Insider’s editor-in-chief, Nicholas Carlson, is standing by his team’s reporting after Elon Musk seemed to tweet out threats directed at outlets that would publish allegations against him. The tweets, in which Musk said “there will be blood”, followed reports that he had allegedly sexually harassed an employee.
Speaking to CNN Business, Carlson said that the accusations met his outlet’s standards for publishing on “reliable sources.” The outlet reported on documents that showed that Musk had been accused of exposing his penis to a flight attendant on a SpaceX corporate jet in 2016.
Carlson said that Musk and the company denied the allegation but did not deny paying $250,000 in a settlement with the flight attendant signed in 2018. He added that any story regarding credible accusations about a very rich and powerful person’s wrongdoings is “sort of obviously newsworthy.”
A day after the initial Business Insider report, Musk publicly said that Tesla would build “a hardcore litigation department where we directly initiate & execute lawsuits. The team will report directly to me.” He added that he was looking for “hardcore streetfighters” for the team and asked for applicants on Twitter.
James Park, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Law.com that Musk’s tweets appear to be related to the allegations of sexual misconduct.
“He’s in a situation where either he’s going to be a defendant, or he himself might be a plaintiff, bringing libel cases against the person who is accusing him of this conduct,” Park said.
The move could have the impact of creating a legal concept known as “libel chill” in which threats of libel action are made to intimidate news outlets and individuals and prevent them from publicly writing about certain matters. Although this accusation has already been made public, the move may stop other outlets from publishing other accusations against Musk for fear of being locked in a legal battle with one of the richest men on earth.
The accusations against Musk seem to have had an impact on his colossal wealth, though. According to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, the value of Musk’s personal holdings fell by about $10.6 billion following the publication of alleged sexual misconduct. The downturn was mainly due to his stake in Tesla, shares in which fell by as much as 10.8 percent last Friday, reports Gizmodo. Regardless, Musk is still estimated to be worth more than $200 billion.