Elon Musk defends Dilbert cartoonist Adams after racist rant

Days after Dilbert comic strip creator Scott Adams was criticized across the country for going on a racist tirade against Black people on YouTube, Twitter and Tesla CEO Elon Musk came to his defense over the weekend.

In a Twitter thread overnight Saturday responding to news that Adams had said Black people are a hate group and he doesn’t want to have anything to do with them, Musk replied that “the media is racist” against “whites and Asians.” 

The billionaire reportedly also tweeted, and then deleted, a reply to Adams’ tweet about media outlets discontinuing his comic strip, in which he asked: “What exactly are they complaining about?”

Hundreds of media outlets across the U.S., including the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and the USA Today Network of hundreds of papers, announced they would no longer publish the Dilbert strip after the cartoonist made inflammatory comments last week on his YouTube show, “Real Coffee With Scott Adams.” 

The Chronicle stopped carrying Dilbert last October after strips that, among other things, joked that reparations, proposed for African Americans because of slavery, can be claimed by underperforming office workers and that, to get around efforts to diversify workplaces, straight men should pretend they are gay, said Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, editor in chief.

In his show Wednesday, Bay Area resident Adams referenced a recent Rasmussen Reports poll of 1,000 American adults who asked whether they agreed with the statement: “It’s Ok to be white.”

According to the Rasmussen poll, 72% of Americans agreed with the statement, including 53% of Black respondents, and 22% percent of Americans disagreed, including 26% of Black respondents.  

The phrase itself cropped up as part of a 2017 trolling campaign by members of the white nationalist “alt-right” movement in the online forum 4chan. White supremacists, who had used the phrase long before the campaign, promoted it on flyers and website links, The Chronicle reported.

In Adams’ video, he referenced the poll and called Black people “a hate group,” adding, “the best advice I could give to white people is to get the hell away from Black people.”

“It makes no sense whatsoever as a white citizen of America to try to help Black citizens anymore,” Adams said, adding that he escaped by living in a neighborhood with a “very low” Black population.

Since he became Twitter CEO in October, Musk, who has called himself a “free speech absolutist,” has reinstated far-right and even neo-Nazi accounts on Twitter that previously had been banned for hate speech and sharing misinformation. 

A study from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the Anti-Defamation League, and other groups that study online platforms found that tweets expressing hate speech and antisemitism skyrocketed in the weeks after Musk took over Twitter, the New York Times reported.

The Network Contagion Research Institute found that the use of the racial epithet “n—” spiked nearly 500% on Twitter in the 12 hours after his deal was finalized, The Chronicle reported.

Musk himself has amplified baseless conspiracy theories in his tweets, including one in October related to the attack on then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband in San Francisco, and another in 2018 in which he called a British explorer who participated in a dramatic cave rescue in Thailand a “pedo guy.” The next year, a civil court jury cleared Musk — who deleted the tweet and apologized — of defamation allegations.

His automotive company, Tesla, has also been at the center of several lawsuits alleging racist practices and sexual harassment in the workplace. An investigation by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing resulted in the department suing Tesla for “widespread discrimination.”

Reach Annie Vainshtein: avainshtein@sfchronicle.com


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