Elon Musk has denied claims in a news report that he sexually harassed a flight attendant on a private jet in 2016, calling the accusations “utterly untrue”.
Business Insider reported earlier on Thursday that the billionaire’s SpaceX paid $250,000 (£200,000) in 2018 in a severance settlement following a sexual misconduct claim to an unnamed private jet flight attendant who accused Musk of exposing himself to her.
The article quoted an anonymous person who said she was a friend of the flight attendant. The friend had provided a statement as part of the private settlement process, according to the article.
“I have 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,” Musk tweeted.
The Guardian has not been able to verify the Business Insider account. SpaceX has been approached for comment.
In addition to allegedly exposing himself, Business Insider quoted the friend of the flight attendant as saying Musk rubbed the flight attendant’s thigh and offered to buy her a horse if she would “do more” during an in-flight massage.
The flight attendant came to believe that her refusal to accept Musk‘s proposal had hurt her opportunities to work at SpaceX and prompted her to hire a lawyer in 2018, according to Business Insider.
The rocket company made the settlement out of court and included a nondisclosure agreement that prevented the flight attendant from speaking about it, Business Insider said. The news site did not name the friend or the flight attendant.
The attendant told her friend that she was asked to go to Musk’s cabin during a flight to London to give a “full body massage”. Upon entering the cabin, she found Musk was “completely naked except for a sheet covering the lower half of his body”.
The declaration says that during the massage Musk “exposed his genitals” and “touched her and offered to buy her a horse if she would ‘do more’, referring to the performance of sex acts”. The attendant, a horse rider, declined and continued with the massage without any sexual activity.
According to the declaration, in the wake of the incident the attendant felt she was being marginalised in her job. She felt “she was being pushed out and punished for refusing to prostitute herself”, said the declaration.
The attendant hired a lawyer in 2018 and sent the allegations to SpaceX’s human resources department. The complaint was resolved after a session with a mediator attended by Musk, according to Business Insider. In November of that year, Musk, SpaceX and the attendant entered into a severance agreement that involved a $250,000 payment in exchange for a pledge not to sue over the claims.
Musk, who is also chief executive of Tesla and is in the midst of a contentious effort to buy Twitter, said on Wednesday he would vote Republican instead of Democrat, predicting a “dirty tricks campaign against me” would follow.
In the Business Insider article, Musk was quoted as saying the flight attendant’s story was a “politically motivated hit piece” and that there was “a lot more to this story”.
He wrote: “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.”
On Thursday evening, Musk first tweeted: “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.”
In the initial tweet, he did not specifically mention the allegations in the Business Insider article. “And, for the record, those wild accusations are utterly untrue,” Musk added in another tweet.
He also tweeted that the article was meant to interfere with the Twitter acquisition.
Musk had agreed to buy Twitter, the social media company with 229 million users, for $44m but has said the deal is “on hold” until he receives further details of the number of fake and spam accounts on the platform.