SpaceX has fired a number of employees who wrote and shared a letter criticizing the behavior of CEO Elon Musk, with the company’s president criticizing the letter as “overreaching activism.”
The open letter, first reported by The Verge, described Musk’s behavior as “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks.” It cites SpaceX’s “No Asshole” policy and asks the company to “publicly address and condemn Elon’s harmful Twitter behavior.”
Said the letter writers: “As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX — every Tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company. It is critical to make clear to our teams and to our potential talent pool that his messaging does not reflect our work, our mission, or our values.”
A number of the letter’s drafters were fired Thursday afternoon, according to an email sent by SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell and seen by The Verge. News of the firing was first reported by The New York Times.
In the email, Shotwell said SpaceX had “terminated a number of employees involved” in crafting the letter. “The letter, solicitations and general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views,” wrote Shotwell. “We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism.”
One employee who had input in writing the letter, who asked to remain anonymous, argued that the general sentiment among other employees is that Shotwell’s email is “tone deaf.” The employee claimed that the letter was the result of a “month of dedicated hard work and soliciting feedback to try and make sure we got as much input as possible.”
We’ve reached out to SpaceX for comment and will update this story if we hear back.
Musk has long been a volatile figure, but since his proposed acquisition of Twitter in April — a $44 billion deal that yet to be finalized — his behavior has attracted even more attention. Last month, Insider reported that SpaceX paid a flight attendant $250,000 after Musk allegedly exposed himself to her and propositioned her. Musk later joked about the incident on Twitter, telling another user “if you touch my wiener, you can have a horse.”