- SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell defended Elon Musk following sexual misconduct claims.
- The top female executive said she didn’t believe the allegations against Musk, which Insider first reported.
- In a companywide email obtained by CNBC, Shotwell said she would “never” comment on legal matters.
SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell defended founder Elon Musk in an employee email last week following Insider’s report that the company paid a SpaceX flight attendant $250,000 in 2018 after she alleged Musk exposed himself and propositioned her for sex.
“Let me be clear SpaceX does not tolerate harassment of any kind. I am saying ZERO tolerance. We firmly believe everyone at SpaceX deserves to be treated with respect. And every accusation of harassment is taken very seriously, regardless of who is involved. HR thoroughly investigates all claims that are brought to their attention and takes appropriate disciplinary action,” Shotwell wrote in a Friday email to employees obtained by Insider.
“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,” she continued. “Anyone who knows Elon like I do, knows he would never conduct or condone this alleged inappropriate behavior.”
Musk denied the sexual misconduct allegations to Insider last week, saying there is “a lot more to this story,” which he called a “politically motivated hit piece.”
“If I were inclined to engage in sexual harassment, this is unlikely to be the first time in my entire 30-year career that it comes to light,” he wrote.
Neither Musk nor SpaceX’s legal department denied that the company gave the flight attendant a $250,000 severance payment.
In Shotwell’s email to employees, she also said that she would “never comment on any legal matters involving employment issues.”
SpaceX did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment regarding Shotwell’s email.
A friend of the flight attendant told Insider that Musk asked her to come to his room during a late 2016 flight for a “full body massage.” When she arrived, the flight attendant discovered that Musk was “completely naked except for a sheet covering the lower half of his body.” According to a declaration signed by her friend in support of the flight attendant’s claim and shared with Insider, the flight attendant said Musk “exposed his genitals” and then touched her and “offered to buy her a horse if she would ‘do more.'”
The attendant declined and continued with the massage, according to the declaration. The flight attendant told her friend that her work opportunities began to decline after she refused Musk’s advances. In 2018, the attendant hired an employment lawyer and sent a complaint to SpaceX’s human resources department explaining the incident.
The company quickly resolved the complaint following a mediation session that Musk personally attended and agreed to the $250,000 payment in exchange for a promise from the attendant that she not sue over the claims, according to Insider’s earlier reported story.
Female SpaceX employees have also complained in the past about a culture of sexual harassment at the company. In December, former SpaceX engineer Ashley Kosak wrote that she had had to “bring multiple different incidents of sexism to HR,” though it is unclear if Musk was at all involved in or aware of Kosak’s claims.