Elon Musk told his 120 million Twitter followers on Sunday that Dr. Anthony Fauci should be criminally prosecuted, echoing talking points from the far-right conspiracy theorists he has increasingly aligned himself with on the platform.
“My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci,” tweeted the new Twitter owner, whose message also mocked pronoun usage.
The attack came as Fauci, the nation’s top immunologist, prepares to step down from his role overseeing the nation’s COVID-19 response. Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and has served five decades in public health.
Musk provided no explanation for his message, but it followed a prior tweet in which he shared a meme mocking past coronavirus lockdowns. His tweet received support from far-right Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R). Until it was reactivated under Musk, Greene’s personal account had been permanently suspended from Twitter for spreading COVID-19 misinformation. She has also advocated against transgender acceptance and equality.
Fauci has faced intense backlash including death threats for advocating for COVID-19 vaccines and social mandates, including mask usage, that aimed to prevent the virus from spreading. More than 1 million people have died from the virus in the U.S. since early 2020.
Musk has increasingly aligned himself with right-wing commentators like those advocating against Fauci. After purchasing Twitter, he removed a company policy against spreading COVID-19 misinformation and granted “amnesty” to users whose accounts had been frozen, including for posting hate speech and inciting violence. These accounts included neo-Nazis and former President Donald Trump, who was banned from the platform for using it to incite the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Musk’s attack on Fauci also comes amid weeks of turmoil at Twitter that followed his takeover, including a mass employee exodus, slowing ad revenue, a surge of fake “verified” accounts, and one study finding a rise in racial slurs on the site.
After founding members of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council resigned earlier this month, Musk hit back by accusing them of criminally refusing to take action on child exploitation. This came in response to a right-wing conspiracy theorist saying the former employees “all belong in jail.” Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey directly responded, calling the allegations false.
Musk on Saturday also baselessly accused Twitter’s former safety head, Yoel Roth, of supporting online child sexualization.
Musk accused Roth, who resigned last month, of advocating for children being able to use adult websites, like Grindr, in a Ph.D. thesis. According to a snippet of the thesis shared by Musk, Roth argued that young adults will continue to use the hookup site, despite it likely not being safe or age-appropriate for them, and so more safeguards should be added for them.
Roth did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Musk’s attack on Roth is reminiscent of a 2018 incident in which the billionaire was sued after baselessly calling a British cave explorer, who was involved in the rescue of Thai children trapped in a cave, a “pedo guy.” Musk argued in court that his comment, an apparent response to the explorer claiming that Musk was only offering to help the rescue as a “PR stunt,” wasn’t meant to be taken literally.
Musk reportedly paid a private investigator $50,000 to search for compromising information on the explorer.
The lawsuit against Musk was ultimately tossed.
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