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Fox Business
Fox Business
8 Apr 2023

Advertising executives from major corporations including McDonald's and Colgate-Palmolive expressed concerns that Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter CEO Elon Musk's free speech absolutism is "perpetuating racism," according to emails reported by Semafor

In a leaked email thread, North American members of MMA Global's board of directors discussed Musk's scheduled appearance at the digital marketing association's Possible conference on April 18. NBC Universal advertising chief Linda Yaccarino will interview Musk as he attempts to woo back advertisers who fled Twitter in the wake of his $44 billion takeover of the platform. 

In January, Reuters reported that fourteen of the top 30 advertisers on Twitter cut off all ad spending when Musk assumed control on October 27, according to data from the research firm Pathmatics. "Overall, advertising spending by the top 30 companies fell by 42% to an estimated $53.8 million for November and December combined," the report said. 

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange % MCDMCDONALD'S CORP.282.89+0.87+0.31%CLCOLGATE-PALMOLIVE CO.75.69+0.33+0.44%ACIALBERTSONS COMPANIES21.05+0.11+0.53%

Musk has previously said that an activist campaign by groups pressuring advertisers and "trying to destroy free speech in America" has led to a "massive drop in revenue" for the company. He has since sought to win back those advertisers by promising that the platform will not become "a free-for-all hellscape." 

Elon Musk

Twitter CEO Elon Musk is scheduled to do an interview at MMA Global's Possible conference on April 18.  (Marlena Sloss/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

It will be a tough sell to industry leaders, who reportedly have expressed deep skepticism of Musk in their discussions. 

"For many communities, his willingness to leverage success and personal financial resources to further an agenda under the guise of freedom of speech is perpetuating racism resulting [in] direct threats to their communities and a potential for brand safety compromise we should all be concerned about," wrote Tariq Hassan, McDonald's chief marketing and customer experience officer.

"Further, all of us who lead our brand's investments across platforms were required to navigate a situation post-acquisition that objectively can only be characterized as ranging from chaos to moments of irresponsibility," he added. 


Twitter logo on a phone

In January, Reuters reported that fourteen of the top 30 advertisers on Twitter had cut off all ad spending when Musk assumed control on October 27, according to data from the research firm Pathmatics. ((Photo Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) / Getty Images)

Colgate-Palmolive's vice president and general manager of consumer experience and growth, Diana Haussling, wrote that she was "mindful of the harmful and often racist rhetoric of Elon Musk." 

"While I am a huge supporter of free speech and enterprise we can not ignore the impact of such hate speech. I especially can’t ignore it as a black woman," she added, according to Semafor. 

Albertsons senior vice president of retail media, Kristi Argyilan, also voiced concerns about the "reputational risk for the MMA" posed by "giving Elon Musk a stage." 

mcdonalds sign

Advertising executives from major American corporations including McDonald's and Colgate-Palmolive reportedly expressed concerns over Elon Musk's free speech agenda, writing in a leaked email thread that his actions are "perpetuating racism."  ((Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images) / Getty Images)

"While the executives did not specify what they were referring to, last month, Musk defended Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, after he had labeled Black Americans a ‘hate group,’ and said that the media was racist against Whites and Asians," Semafor's report noted. 

Twitter VP of global sales and marketing Chris Riedy reportedly responded in the thread, offering to set up private meetings with Musk where the advertisers could speak with him directly. 

"Twitter needs each of you and your feedback is critical to shaping what the company can become - Elon will be in Miami for the majority of the day Tuesday and wants to hear from you," Riedy wrote. "To that end, and in an effort to foster the most healthy conversation possible and to give each of you the opportunity to address him directly, how about we get this group together with Elon immediately after the session with Linda?"

Twitter currently responds to all press inquiries with an automated message containing a poop emoji. 

MMA Global did not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment. 

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