Elon Musk on Why Hate Speech Won’t Be Removed From X: “We Delete Things if They Are Illegal”

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Days after Don Lemon said that Elon Musk canceled his partnership with X hours after conducting an interview with the tech mogul, the former CNN anchor on Monday dropped the first episode of The Don Lemon Show on YouTube and podcast streaming platforms, featuring a contentious interview with Musk.

Throughout their conversation, Lemon brought up questions related to Musk’s drug use, his affiliations with Donald Trump, advertisers pulling ads off X, hate speech on the app and other topics that the South African businessman appeared to deem troublesome.

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Ten minutes into the interview, following a discussion about Musk’s political leanings, Lemon noted that the X owner recently met with Trump in Florida and asked what they spoke about. “I was at a breakfast at a friend’s place and Donald Trump came by—that’s it,” Musk said. When Lemon asked him to confirm he did not travel to Florida to meet the former president, Musk stammered, “I went to a friend of mine’s house and he said, ‘Donald Trump’s coming by for breakfast, just so you know.’ I said, ‘Okay, fine.'”

Musk remained cagey when asked what he and Trump spoke about, saying, “Let’s just say he did most of the talking.” He then confirmed Trump did not ask him for donations for his presidential campaign and did not ask for Musk to help with his legal bills.

Elsewhere in the interview, Lemon asked if Musk’s controversial late-night tweets are written while sober. The entrepreneur said he doesn’t drink. Lemon then stated that Musk smoked marijuana with Joe Rogan on the controversial podcast The Joe Rogan Show and has a ketamine prescription.

When asked what the ketamine prescription is for, Musk initially declined to answer, saying, “I mean, it’s pretty private to ask somebody about a medical prescription.” Musk added, “There are times when I have a […] negative chemical state in my brain, like depression.” He then explained that ketamine is “helpful for getting one out of a negative frame of mind.”

“Do you think you ever abuse [the prescription]?,” asked Lemon. Musk responded, “I don’t think so. If you use too much ketamine you can’t really get work done and I’ve got a lot of work.” He maintained that he only uses a “small amount” of the drug “every other week or something like that.”

When asked if “better content moderation” on X would help Musk avoid having to answer questions about his apparent support of the Great Replacement Theory, a conspiracy theory that claims there’s a plot to diminish the influence of white people, Musk retaliated by saying that he doesn’t have to answer questions from reporters and only accepted this interview because Lemon’s show is on X.

Lemon also asked Musk if he felt that, as the owner of one of the biggest social media platforms, he has any responsibility in moderating the platform. Musk avoided answering, instead noting that X has community notes to combat misinformation.

When Lemon said that Musk recently referred to moderation as a “digital chastity belt,” Musk said that he only saw a responsibility to “adhere to the law” and to display why things are shown on X according to its algorithm. He also denied that hate speech has increased on the platform since his ownership.

Lemon then showed Musk various antisemitic tweets that remain on X. “From your own content policy, these posts should have been deleted. Why haven’t they been deleted?,” Lemon asked. Musk said that posts are only deleted from X “if they are illegal.” He denied responsibility for encouraging hate speech, saying, “If content is on the platform, that doesn’t mean we promote it.”

Towards the end of the interview, the conversation returned to free speech on X. Lemon inquired about Musk’s response to advertisers who chose to pull ads from the platform. The reporter pointed out advertisers are free to choose where to advertise. “How is that not free speech?,” Lemon asked Musk.

Musk confirmed advertisers are free to choose which platform they advertise on, which prompted Lemon to inquire further about the X owner’s comments: “So you said if they kill the company, it’s them. But doesn’t the buck stop with you?”

“Don, choose your questions carefully, there’s five minutes left,” Musk responded. He explained that he acquired the platform to “preserve freedom of speech in America, the First Amendment.” Musk added, “If that means making less money, so be it.”

Last summer, Musk tweeted an invite for Lemon, Rachel Maddow and “others on the left” to put their shows on X. He assured that they’d “receive our full support” as “the digital town square is for all.”

In January, X announced it had struck deals for exclusive shows hosted by Lemon, former congresswomen Tulsi Gabbard and ex-Fox Sports host and sports radio personality Jim Rome.

“I’ve heard you… and today I am back, bigger, bolder, freer!,” Lemon wrote on X at the time. “My new media company’s first project is The Don Lemon Show. It will be available to everyone, easily, whenever and wherever you want it, streaming on the platforms where the conversations are happening. And you’ll find it first on X, the biggest space for free space in the world. I know now more than ever that we need a place for honest debate and discussion without the hall monitors. This is just the beginning so stay tuned.”

However, last Wednesday, Lemon shared that Musk informed him of his decision to cancel the reporter’s partnership with X hours after their interview. Lemon noted that there “were no restrictions” on the conversation topics for their chat, which Musk had “willingly agreed” to.

On the same day, X Business responded to Lemon’s claims on the platform. “X is a platform that champions free speech, and we’re proud to provide an open environment for diverse voices and perspectives,” read the statement. “The Don Lemon Show is welcome to publish its content on X, without censorship, as we believe in providing a platform for creators to scale their work and connect with new communities. However, like any enterprise, we reserve the right to make decisions about our business partnerships, and after careful consideration, X decided not to enter into a commercial partnership with the show.”

The interview was also posted to Lemon’s X account.

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