SpaceX’s COO defended Elon Musk in an email to all employees after an allegation of sexual misconduct against the CEO surfaced last week.
Gwynne Shotwell, the top female executive at the rocket company, told employees in the internal message that she personally believed the allegations against Musk to be false, according to reports from CNBC and the New York Times. Shotwell’s email was sent one day after Insider published a report on the allegation. SpaceX settled for $250,000 with one of its flight attendants in 2018 after the woman said that Musk propositioned her for sex during a massage on a private plane, allegedly exposing his erect penis to her and offering to buy her a horse in exchange. Musk has denied that any sexual misconduct took place and made light of the accusation, calling it “Elongate.”
Although Shotwell declined to get into specifics about the allegations, she did comment on Musk’s character, proclaiming he would never do anything like that. She did not deny the existence of the settlement with the flight attendant.
“Personally, I believe the allegations to be false; not because I work for Elon, but because I have worked closely with him for 20 years and never seen nor heard anything resembling these allegations,” Shotwell wrote, according to a copy of her email. “Anyone who knows Elon like I do, knows he would never conduct or condone this alleged inappropriate behavior.”
Shotwell also underscored that SpaceX had “zero tolerance” for any kind of harassment and that every accusation is taken seriously “regardless of who is involved.” The COO’s statements are in stark contrast to an essay published last December by a former female intern and engineer at the company, who said the workplace environment was “so rife with sexism, the only remedy for women is to leave.”
Musk wrote Monday night, “Astute observers of my plane (and there many) will note that I don’t use a flight attendant. Moreover, only fruit & nuts are stocked on the plane. I use flights as an opportunity to fast.”
Gizmodo reached out to SpaceX for comment on Tuesday morning but did not hear back by the time of publication.
Shotwell wrote, “HR thoroughly investigates all claims that are brought to their attention and takes appropriate disciplinary action.”
Shotwell’s email is the latest development in the Musk mayhem that has ensued since Insider published its report, the allegations in which have not been independently verified by Gizmodo. Since the report hit the web, Musk lost more than $10 billion in personal wealth, primarily driven by the tanking of Tesla’s shares. Shares of the electric carmaker had been on the decline as Musk’s attempted $44 billion takeover of Twitter became bogged down in a discussion of spam bots on the social network. Besides that, the public is also reeling from a recent New York Times documentary called Elon Musk’s Crash Course, which describes how the CEO responded to accidents involving its Autopilot technology.