In an interview with CNBC Tuesday night, Elon Musk defended the spreading conspiracy theories about the deadly mass shooting in Texas earlier this month.
On May 9, the open-source intelligence research group Bellingcat posted a story detailing the shooter that indicated he held white supremacist and neo-Nazi views. The Bellingcat story included social media posts from the Russian social network Odnoklassniki that traced back to the shooter, including photos sporting a large swastika tattoo and body armor with a RWDS (Right-Wing Death Squad, a far-right slogan) patch. The Texas Department of Public Safety has also said the shooter showed signs of adhering to a neo-Nazi ideology, with an official saying: “He had patches. He had tattoos.”
But on Twitter on May 9, Musk replied to a crude meme questioning details about the shooter: claim that Bellingcat “literally specializes in psychological operations” and says that “this is either the weirdest story ever or a really bad psyop!”
CNBC’s David Faber asked him about that tweet in an interview Tuesday night. “I think it was falsely attributed to white supremacist action,” Musk said. And the proof of that was some obscure Russian website that no one had ever heard of and had no followers. And the company that found this was Bellingcat. And do you know what Bellingcat is? Psychops.” In its story, Bellingcat notes that it did not discover the profile; its existence was first reported by The New York Times.
Musk added, “I’m saying I thought it was bullshit to attribute it to white supremacy. And that the information before that came from an obscure Russian website and was somehow magically found by Bellingcat, a company that does psyops.” Bellingcat’s report describes finding the profile by matching accounts with the shooter’s date of birth. The account had posted photos of identification documents, including a speeding ticket and a boarding pass with the gunman’s name.
Musk’s comments about the shooting were part of an escalating series of messages that echoed right-wing talking points. In the interview, he similarly defended comments claiming that billionaire philanthropist George Soros, a frequent target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, “hate humanity.” Last year, he also shared a widely debunked conspiracy theory about the motives for an attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi. Later in the CNBC interview, he reiterated his denial that the shooter held any white supremacist views:
Faber: There is no evidence that he wasn’t, by the way [a white supremacist]
Musk: I would say there is no evidence that he is.
Faber; And that’s a discussion you want to get into on Twitter?
Musk: Yes. Because we shouldn’t attribute things to white supremacy if it’s false.