While most of us probably only know Elon Musk as the wealthiest man on earth and Tesla’s founder, here’s something else that you might not know about him if you don’t follow him on social media.
He’s been accused of sexual harassment, and apparently even tried to pay the victim US$250,000 (approximately S$345,000) to settle the issue outside of court.
According to Business Insider, the alleged victim is a flight attendant who worked for SpaceX, the aerospace firm that Musk founded.
Based on reports, the incident happened in 2016 when the victim was still working as a cabin crew member on a contract basis.
And now, six years after the incident, one of the victim’s friends is coming forth to speak about her friend’s experience.
What Musk Did
According to various interviews and documents from Insider, Musk, now 50, had apparently told the victim to enter his room while he was on a SpaceX Gulfstream G650ER flight to London in order to give him a “full body massage”.
When she entered the room, however, the victim came face-to-face with a half-naked Musk.
He then showed her his erect penis and rubbed her leg without asking for her consent. In addition to that, he also proposed buying her a horse if she gave him an erotic massage.
(And just in case you’re thinking that a horse might be the most random gift ever, in this case the victim rides horses lah.)
Of course, she refused the offer and continued to do her job of massaging Musk without having any other contact.
Based on what one of her friends, who signed the victim’s declaration in support of her, said during an interview, the flight attendant revealed to the friend that she was urged to obtain a masseuse licence to give Musk more massages.
SpaceX’s Specialisation in In-Flight Massages
And if you’re wondering what on earth flying in a plane has to do with massages, these two things have much more in common than you’d think in SpaceX.
During flights, it’s not uncommon to see professional massage therapists who end up on flights in order to give massages to executives who need them.
The friend also shared that the flight attendant’s superiors tried to persuade her to attend professional massage training on her own accord with her own money.
The friend then pointed out that the company should have paid for her massage training given that she was “hired to be a flight attendant” and not a masseuse, and that Musk should have paid for her training if the company wanted her to develop more skills for work.
Differential Treatment After Refusing to “Prostitute Herself”
According to the flight attendant’s friend, she was clearly traumatised by the incident after it happened and was at a loss of what to do.
This was especially since she initially saw Musk as a superior whom she respected.
At first, she thought that it would be alright to ignore the incident and pretend that it did not happen.
However, after she went again Musk’s requests, the victim started to notice that she might be being treated differently, increasing her stress and anxiety levels.
For example, the attendant realised that she was put on a smaller number of shifts.
Her friend also noted in the declaration that she felt like she was being penalised for “refusing to prostitute herself”.
Severance Payment from Musk
Around two years later in 2018, it was clear to the attendant that her act of rejecting Musk’s intentions had resulted in unfair treatment at her workplace.
She then hired a California employment lawyer and submitted a complaint letter to SpaceX’s human resources department, revealing the incident that had occurred.
The attorney’s firm then got in contact with the flight attendant’s friend and asked her to prepare a declaration that would support the victim’s claims.
Following a session with a mediator, both parties were able to reach an agreement. The attendant would receive US$250,000 (approximately S$345,000) from Musk, provided that she did not sue the company or Musk.
Musk was also present at the session.
In addition to that, the agreement would mean that the flight attendant was not allowed to talk about the payment or share any information regarding Musk or any of his businesses.
Musk and SpaceX’s Response
When Insider first got in contact with Musk to hear his side of the story, he responded by saying he needed more time and that there was “a lot more to this story”.
However, he did not respond to Insider’s second attempt at contacting him.
He then openly denied the accusations against him on Twitter.
But 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.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 20, 2022
He also wrote that the story was a “politically motivated hit piece”, and that it came just in time after he announced that he is a Republican.
They began brewing attacks of all kinds as soon as the Twitter acquisition was announced.
In my 30 year career, including the entire MeToo era, there’s nothing to report, but, as soon as I say I intend to restore free speech to Twitter & vote Republican, suddenly there is …
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 20, 2022
As for Christopher Cardaci, the Vice President of legal at SpaceX, he refrained from commenting on the situation.
SpaceX did not reply to any of Insider‘s queries sent to their other contact channels either.
Friend’s Point of View
The flight attendant’s friend, who signed a declaration to confirm the claims, chose to speak up about the incident without asking her friend before doing so.
Although the victim herself cannot comment on the incident due to a non-disclosure agreement, her friend is not bound by the same agreement.
She also contacted the attorney who represented the victim during the case, and the attorney told her that even though she was technically allowed to speak to media outlets, revealing any evidence from the case might put the victim “at risk”.
The friend shared that she chose to speak up in spite of the possible consequences due to her own experience with sexual assault, as well as the amount of authority that Musk now has as the world’s richest person.
She also noted that Musk’s decision to simply settle the issue with money was just so that he could get away with doing whatever he pleased, and that it is an irresponsible way that the rich use to deal with problems.
In addition to that, the friend mentioned that silence would only enable perpetrators like Musk to keep harming others.
She said that she felt that the victim would have spoken up if there was a way for her to do safely, and that she hopes that she has done the victim justice.
Apart from that, the friend also touched on the possibility of other victims who were violated by Musk. She strongly encouraged them to come forth with their stories in order to reveal the truth regarding Musk.
Currently, SpaceX’s headquarters in California are bound by state rules and can no longer include non-disclosure aspects in agreements regarding sexual harassment, discrimination, or assault unless they are requested by the plaintiff.
History of Musk and Sexual Harassment Allegations
Currently, this is the only reported case of sexual misconduct that Musk has been personally involved in.
However, employees from two of Musk’s companies have been previously accused of sexual harassment. The companies are namely SpaceX and Tesla, and Musk is the CEO of both companies.
A few months ago in December 2021, four female employees of SpaceX came forth to reveal their experience of being sexually harassed at work. They experienced being groped and touched in improper manners by their male colleagues.
Back then, the President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell, issued an email to the company to encourage those who have experienced harassment to speak up. She also noted that the company will take all claims of harassment or discrimination seriously.
As for Tesla, the company has been sued by at least six women who have claimed that they have been sexually harrassed by male colleagues.
According to the complaints, male factory employees would “ogle” the women’s clothing and make comments regarding their clothes.
This resulted in female employees turning to baggy clothes and stacking up boxes to prevent others from seeing them at work.
Some also mentioned that when they came forth with the allegations, they were “retaliated against”.
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