Several employees at private spaceflight company SpaceX who circulated a letter this week calling out the behavior of Chief Executive Elon Musk have been fired, according to reports.
In the letter, the existence of which was first reported by the Verge, employees complained about Musk’s “harmful Twitter behavior” and accused the Hawthorne company of not addressing his conduct with a sense of urgency.
“Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks,” the letter states.
In reaction, SpaceX fired some of the organizers behind the letter, the New York Times reported. The paper cited an email in which SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said the company had investigated and “terminated a number of employees” involved with the letter.
The letter alluded to sexual misconduct allegations against Musk that came to light in a report by Insider last month. Musk is alleged to have propositioned a flight attendant for an erotic massage while aboard a SpaceX private jet in 2016. The company paid $250,000 to settled the sexual misconduct claim, according to Insider.
Musk denied the allegations.
The letter writers also asserted that employees face unequal enforcement of the company’s employee conduct policies, and called on the company to create a clear system for reporting and upholding repercussions for “unacceptable behavior.”
They called on the company to hold leadership accountable and “publicly address and condemn” Musk’s behavior on Twitter, according to the letter. The world’s richest man has used his Twitter account, which currently has more than 90 million followers, to publish sex jokes, mock fellow billionaires including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, question the scientific consensus around COVID-19 and voice his increasing affinity for conservative politics.
Musk has said that SpaceX’s goals include making humanity “multiplanetary” by enabling recreational trips to space and the colonization of Mars. The letter questions whether the company’s culture is fit for that test.
“The collaboration we need to make life multiplanetary is incompatible with a culture that treats employees as consumable resources,” the letter states. “Is the culture we are fostering now the one which we aim to bring to Mars and beyond?”
The letter was reportedly shared on Wednesday on an internal Microsoft Teams channel with 2,600 employees, according to the Verge. An unknown number of employees signed the letter.
On Thursday, Musk held a video call with employees of Twitter to take questions in advance of his planned $43-billion purchase of the company. Following the call, the website Project Veritas published what it said were private chat logs showing comments, many of them critical of Musk, posted in company Slack channels during the meeting.
Musk responded to a right-wing activist’s tweet of the Project Veritas leak, saying, “Interesting.”