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SpaceX paid $250,000 in 2018 to resolve allegations that CEO Elon Musk sexually propositioned a flight attendant aboard one of the company’s corporate jets, Insider reported Thursday, in a story the tech billionaire dismissed as a “politically motivated hit piece.”
The flight attendant told her friend that Musk propositioned her in 2016 in his private cabin during a flight to London, Insider reported, citing unpublished documents and emails, as well as a declaration signed by the flight attendant’s friend—neither of whom Insider named.
Musk allegedly “exposed his genitals” to the attendant, touched her thigh and said he would buy her a horse if she gave him an “erotic massage,” according to Insider, which interviewed the friend and reviewed the friend’s declaration (Insider said the flight attendant declined to comment).
The attendant told her friend that, after she refused Musk’s alleged advances, her work shifts were reduced, giving her the impression that she was being punished, Insider reported.
According to Insider, the flight attendant filed a complaint with SpaceX’s human resources department in 2018 that was resolved without reaching arbitration after the attendant signed an agreement not to sue or to disclose information about Musk or his businesses, in return for a $250,000 severance package.
In an email to Insider, Musk dismissed the story as a “politically motivated hit piece” and claimed there was “a lot more to this story.”
Musk and SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes.
Musk’s accuser reportedly told her friend that, after beginning work as a cabin crew member, she was urged to become a licensed masseuse so she could give Musk massages, according to Insider. SpaceX employs an in-house massage therapist and offers massages as a perk to some employees. Musk has not been publicly accused of sexual misconduct before, though four female former SpaceX interns publicly alleged they faced sexual harassment at the company, including nonconsensual grabbing from male employees. SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell promised employees that the company would “rigorously investigate” all harassment claims, though at least one of the interns said she never received a response to sexual misconduct complaints she lodged with the company’s human resources department, the New York Times reported. Six women have also sued Tesla, where Musk is CEO, alleging they were subjected to “rampant sexual harassment” by other employees.
In addition to his roles at Tesla and SpaceX, Musk—whose net worth stands at $218 billion according to Forbes’ estimates—owns a 9.2% stake in Twitter, and the social media company’s board has accepted his offer to buy the entire company for $44 billion. The billionaire said last week his deal to acquire Twitter is “on hold,” citing ostensible concerns about the magnitude of Twitter’s spam account problem, but Twitter’s board says it intends to close the deal.
“Why Elon Musk Is $12 Billion Poorer Wednesday” (Forbes)