Elon Musk, Bob Iger Elon Musk, Bob Iger

Several high-profile individuals spoke at this year’s The New York Times Dealbook Summit, but it was one exchange between Disney CEO Bob Iger and X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk that is making all the headlines.

X is currently suffering an advertiser exodus after Musk was accused of promoting antisemitism and refusing to moderate hate speech on the platform. Among the companies that have paused advertising on X is The Walt Disney Company, and things got heated when the two executives both spoke on the same day.

Iger went first, and when asked about Disney’s decision to stop advertising on Twitter, he explained:

I have a lot of respect for Elon and what he has accomplished. We know that Elon is larger than life in many respects, and that his name is very much connected to the companies he founded or owns. By him taking the position he took in a public manner, we felt that the association was not necessarily a positive one for us.

Musk later took the stage and admitted that he erred when he described an antisemitic post on X as the “actual truth.” In the two weeks since that post, dozens of major brands have stopped advertising on X and the company could lose as much as $75 million by the end of the year, according to The New York Times.

When asked about advertisers fleeing X in droves, Musk quickly replied:

Don’t advertise. If someone is going to try and blackmail me with advertising? Blackmail me with money? Go fuck yourself. Go fuck yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is. Hey Bob, if you’re in the audience. That’s how I feel. Don’t advertise.

Moderator Andrew Ross Sorkin asked Musk to elaborate, and the X boss went on to explain:

What this advertising boycott is gonna do is it’s gonna kill the company. And the whole world will know that those advertisers killed the company. And we will document it in great detail.

Sorkin reminded Musk that without significant changes to its business model, X can’t survive without advertising dollars. He also insisted that despite Musk’s protestations, advertisers will argue, “We didn’t kill the company.” Musk was undeterred and replied with a non sequitur:

Oh yeah? Tell it to Earth. Let’s see how Earth responds to that. We’ll both make our cases, and we’ll see what the outcome is. If the company fails because of an advertiser’s boycott, it will fail because of an advertiser’s boycott, and that will be what bankrupt the company and that’s what everybody on Earth will know. Then we’ll be gone, and we’ll be gone because of an advertiser’s boycott.

Jamie’s take: The Walt Disney Company, a prominent cultural company that is currently struggling creatively, has turned out to be a convenient target for public figures who need a punching bag. One of the reasons that former Disney CEO Bob Chapek fell out of favor at the company was because of external feuds, like the very public back-and-forth he shared with Florida governor Ron DeSantis. That always seemed a bit unfair, as the feud was largely one-sided, with DeSantis trying to turn Disney and Chapek into a bogeyman for political reasons. Musk’s attack on Iger feels similar, as if the X owner is trying to deflect from his company’s struggles by placing the blame elsewhere.

Pictured at top: Elon Musk and Bob Iger speaking at The New York Times Dealbook Summit

Jamie Lang

Jamie Lang is the Editor-in-Chief of Cartoon Brew.

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