Musk previously tweeted, then later deleted, a reply to Adams’s tweet about media outlets pulling his comic strip, in which Musk asked, “What exactly are they complaining about?”
The billionaire’s comments continue a pattern of Musk expressing more concern about the “free speech” of people who make racist or antisemitic comments than about the comments themselves. Musk’s views on race have been the subject of scrutiny both at Twitter, where he has reinstated far-right accounts, including those of neo-Nazis and others previously banned for hate speech, and at Tesla, which has been the subject of multiple lawsuits alleging a culture of rampant racism and sexual harassment in the workplace.
In the wake of Musk’s latest tweets Sunday, the president of the civil rights group Color of Change told The Washington Post that he is reiterating his call for advertisers to boycott Twitter.
Musk did not reply to an email Sunday requesting comment.
Newspapers around the country, including The Washington Post, have dropped Adams’s “Dilbert” strip in recent days in the wake of an episode of his YouTube show that aired Wednesday. In that video, Adams expressed outrage at a Rasmussen poll that found 26 percent of Black Americans disagreed with the statement “It’s okay to be white,” compared with 12 percent of the general population. Another 21 percent of Black respondents said they were “not sure” about the statement.
The controversy over the statement may be explained in part by the fact that it originated as part of an online trolling campaign by the alt-right and was subsequently embraced by white supremacists, according to the Anti-Defamation League. But Adams suggested it proves that Black Americans hate Whites.
“If nearly half of all Blacks are not okay with White people … that’s a hate group,” Adams said. “I don’t want to have anything to do with them. And I would say, based on the current way things are going, the best advice I would give to White people is to get the hell away from Black people … because there is no fixing this.”
In further tweets Sunday, Musk agreed with a tweet that said “Adams’ comments weren’t good” but there’s “an element of truth” to them, and suggested in a reply that media organizations promote a “false narrative” by giving more coverage to unarmed Black victims of police violence than they do to unarmed White victims of police violence.
Asked about his remarks and the cancellation of his comic strip, Adams told The Post in a text message: “Lots of people are angry, but I haven’t seen any disagreement yet, at least not from anyone who saw the context. Some questioned the poll data. That’s fair.”
Since taking over Twitter in October, Musk has softened its policies against hate speech and scaled back the company’s content moderation efforts at a time of drastic cutbacks in its workforce. His first days as owner saw a spike in virulently racist slurs on Twitter, after which Musk met with leaders of civil rights groups in a bid to assuage their concerns.
In that November meeting, held via Zoom, Musk assured leaders from groups, including the NAACP and Color of Change, that he wouldn’t reinstate banned Twitter accounts until he had established a clear process for doing so. Representatives from civil rights groups would be included on a content moderation council that he would form to advise Twitter on its policies, he added.
But Musk never formed the content moderation council, and he began reinstating numerous banned accounts weeks later, including that of former president Donald Trump, after polling his own Twitter followers on their opinion.
Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, was one of the civil rights leaders who met with Musk in November. He said in a phone interview Sunday that he thinks Musk “was lying all the way through the meeting.”
Color of Change was among the civil rights groups that called for an advertiser boycott of Twitter later that month. A Post analysis found in late November that more than a third of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers had stopped or paused advertising on the site in the previous two weeks.
Robinson said Sunday that the boycott is still active, even though some companies that initially signed on to it have since “snuck back” onto the platform. Robinson reiterated his call for advertisers to pull their spending from the company in light of Musk’s latest remarks.
“We think that companies that continue to advertise on [Twitter] are making a choice” about what they’re willing to tolerate, Robinson said. “And we will continue to let the public understand and know about that choice.”
Musk has long decried what he calls a “woke mind virus.” The term “woke” originated among Black activists to mean awareness of, and vigilance against, the White racism that they believed pervades American society. In recent years. it has been adopted by leaders on the right as a pejorative, akin to “politically correct,” suggesting oversensitivity to racism, sexism, transphobia and other forms of bigotry.
In November, Musk posted a tweet in which he appeared to mock T-shirts, created years earlier by a group of Black Twitter employees, that he said stemmed from the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Mo., after the fatal shooting by police of a Black teen, Michael Brown.
Thomas Floyd and Michael Cavna contributed to this report.