Elon Musk publicly mocks laid-off Twitter employee with a disability. Then apologizes.


(NEW YORK) — Locked out of his work computer for more than a week, a two-year Twitter employee didn’t know whether he’d been laid off. So he asked CEO Elon Musk in a message on Twitter.

“Maybe if enough people retweet you’ll answer me here?” Haraldur Thorleifsson, who joined the company after it acquired his startup Ueno, tweeted on Monday.

Musk, who has nearly 131 million followers on the platform, responded on Tuesday.

“What work have you been doing,” he asked.

In an ensuing exchange, Musk volleyed questions at Thorleifsson about his work and voiced skepticism about limitations caused by a disability. Thorleifsson, a design manager, has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair.

In a post, Musk said Thorleifsson “did no actual work, claimed as his excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, yet was simultaneously tweeting up a storm.”

In response, Thorleifsson tweeted: “This wasn’t a problem in Twitter 1.0 since I was a senior director and my job was mostly to help teams move forward, give them strategic and tactical guidance.”

“I’m typing this on my phone btw,” Throleifsson, who goes by “Halli,” later added. “It’s easier for [sic] because I only need to use one finger.”

Musk – the second-richest person in the world, according to Fortune – has faced scrutiny over job cuts at the company in recent months.

Days after Musk acquired Twitter in October, the company began layoffs that ultimately cut more than half of its 7,500-person workforce, raising concerns about Twitter’s capacity to maintain its platform.

In a memo to employees in November, Musk asked workers to commit to being “extremely hardcore” or accept three months of severance upon their exit from the company. Many chose to leave.

For his part, Musk defended his actions at Twitter as part of an aggressive effort to rescue the company from financial peril, which he described in a Twitter Spaces interview in December as an “emergency fire drill.”

“That’s the reason for my actions,” he added. “They may seem sometimes spurious or odd or whatever.”

Musk previously said he overpaid for the platform at the purchasing price of $44 billion.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Ultimately, Thorleifsson said on Monday that he received a message from Twitter saying that he no longer worked for the company.

However, later on Monday, Musk said he held a video call with Thorleifsson to “figure out what’s real vs what I was told.”

“Better to talk to people than communicate via tweet,” he added.

By Monday evening, Musk issued an apology and indicated that Thorleifsson had been offered to return to Twitter.

“I would like to apologize to Halli for my misunderstanding of his situation,” Musk tweeted. “It was based on things I was told that were untrue or, in some cases, true, but not meaningful.”

“He is considering remaining at Twitter,” Musk added.

Thorleifsson, a philanthropist in his home country of Iceland, has led an effort to build 1,500 wheelchair ramps across the nation to improve accessibility.

He did not appear to indicate whether he intends to return to the company.

In a final post on Tuesday, Thorleifsson told his 200,000 followers: “Anyway, that’s enough about me.”

He added: “How are you doing?”

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.