Elon Musk, for once, is sorry.
A day after publicly attacking a disabled former Twitter employee, Musk reversed course and issued a rare apology.
The odd spectacle started when that employee, Haraldur “Halli” Thorleifsson, a prominent designer, grew frustrated after being locked out of his work computer for nine days with no word from Twitter’s human resources department. Fearing he had been laid off as part of recent job cuts, he turned to Twitter to directly ask its owner—Musk—to clarify his work status.
Musk happened to see the tweet and quizzed Thorleifsson for some basic information. Eventually, Thorleifsson said HR contacted him and finally shared that he had indeed been laid off.
But shortly after, in a public conversation with another person, Musk adopted a cruel tone, criticizing Thorleifsson’s work and ridiculing his effort on the job. In doing so, Musk referenced Thorleifsson’s disability—he has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair—in a possible violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act that prohibits employers from disclosing any employee’s disabilities.
“The reality is that this guy (who is independently wealthy) 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,” Musk wrote. “Can’t say I have a lot of respect for that.”
But late Tuesday, after intense public backlash and the potential for a lawsuit over the potential ADA violation, Musk backtracked.
“I would like to apologize to Halli for my misunderstanding of his situation. It was based on things I was told that were untrue or, in some cases, true, but not meaningful,” Musk wrote.
Musk added that he had spoken by video call with Thorleifsson, who lives in Iceland, and said that he “is considering remaining at Twitter.” Thorleifsson did not immediately comment on Twitter about Musk’s apology or whether he’s interested in returning to work for him.
Thorleifsson sold his startup, Uneno, to Twitter in 2021 and, as part of the deal, joined Twitter. He is open about his disability and initially responded to Musk by detailing the impact of it on him and how he had managed to work at Twitter nonetheless.
In a thinly veiled criticism of Musk, Thorleifsson also wrote: “You had every right to lay me off. But it would have been nice to let me know!”
Then Thorleifsson got down to business and addressed Musk about the financial considerations of being laid off. Would Musk, among the world’s richest people, honor Thorleifsson’s contract or “try to avoid paying”—another dig at Musk, who has allegedly failed to pay rent for offices and stiffed laid off employees of promised compensation.
“Let me know if you are going to pay what you owe me?” he said. “I think you can afford it?
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