Elon Musk Tells Twitter Followers To Vote For A Republican Congress

(Bloomberg) -- Twitter Inc. owner Elon Musk told his audience of more than 100 million followers on the social-media platform to vote for Republicans, less than one day away from midterm elections.

Elon Musk Photographer: Maja Hitij/Getty Images
Elon Musk Photographer: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Twitter Inc. owner Elon Musk told his audience of more than 100 million followers on the social-media platform to vote for Republicans -- on the eve of midterm elections where Democrats are poised for losses.

“To independent-minded voters: Shared power curbs the worst excesses of both parties, therefore I recommend voting for a Republican Congress, given that the Presidency is Democratic,” Musk wrote Monday. 

“Hardcore Democrats or Republicans never vote for the other side, so independent voters are the ones who actually decide who’s in charge!,” he added.

The tweets from Musk, who also serves as chief executive officer of Tesla Inc., marked a startling departure from other CEOs in the US who have largely shunned political activism over fears of alienating both customers and shareholders. 

Tech industry watchers painted his move as uncommon, especially so close to an election, and said it would raise further questions about his stewardship of Twitter, which is already seeing advertisers flee over concerns about changes to its content moderation policies.

“It’s unprecedented to have a CEO come straight out and say that,” said Katie Harbath, a former Meta public policy director. “Many others have done donations, so you know what their leanings are. But it’s rare to see them actually tell people who they should go vote for.”

Twitter Turmoil

Musk’s recommendation takes on greater weight now that he runs Twitter, one of the most influential platforms for political communication.

Twitter's Content Moderation Issues
Twitter's Content Moderation Issues

Social media executives don’t tend to give endorsements. Because their platforms are a main way people consume information about elections, they want to avoid accusations of bias. A large social network’s policies on content moderation, user suspensions, algorithmic ordering and more could all have an impact on election outcomes. Executives at Twitter and Facebook have testified before Congress about their efforts to uphold the integrity of elections.

At times, social media executives’ personal political leanings have become clear through donations or public appearances. 

Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, for instance, was a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, and former Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg was close with Hillary Clinton, but stopped short of publicly endorsing her in 2016. That year, when then-Instagram head Kevin Systrom posted a picture on the app with Clinton before the election, saying he was “very excited” for her to be president, he received a scolding internally, people familiar with the matter have said.

Harbath, the former Meta executive, said Musk’s actions Monday would bring more scrutiny on Twitter.

“This is going to bring up more questions about his decision-making on content policies. How are Democrats supposed to trust him if he’s now saying ‘go vote Republican?’ He is, at every step of the way, eroding trust more and more with advertisers, with politicians who can regulate him,’ said Harbath. 

“Coming out of this, if there are Republican candidates who aren’t accepting the results of the election, people are going to wonder what position Twitter is going to take on that. Will they do anything? Will they be able to do anything? Will they have the people to do anything on it?”

Last week, President Joe Biden criticized Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, saying it “spews lies all across the world.” Musk fashions himself as an advocate for free-speech and has vowed to revamp Twitter’s content moderation policies, echoing concerns from many Republicans that the platform was biased against conservatives.

Earlier: Biden Says Musk Bought Platform That ‘Spews Lies’ Around World

Musk’s moves, including plans to lay off roughly half the company’s employees, have rattled advertisers, including Pfizer Inc. and General Mills Inc., who said they will temporarily pause ad spending on the platform to see how Musk intends to change Twitter.

While Musk does not need to answer to shareholders at Twitter, he does at Tesla. Tesla touched the lowest in intraday trading since June 2021 and was among the worst performers on the Nasdaq 100 Index.

Read more: Tesla’s Post-Twitter Selloff Has Stock Setting New 52-Week Low

Washington Player

In Washington, Musk is a major player in government contracts, including through SpaceX, which he co-founded.

In September 2021, Musk tweeted that he “would prefer to stay out of politics,” but he has increasingly weighed in on political matters and offered support to Republicans. He’s used his Twitter account to criticize politicians, promote cryptocurrencies, and engage in debate.

In June of this year, he said he voted for the Republican in a special election for a Texas House seat. Musk said that while he voted for Democrats in the past, he would now vote Republican because Democrats “have become the party of division & hate, so I can no longer support them.” 

That same month he also floated creating a super PAC to back centrist candidates, but there is no indication Musk has followed through on that plan.

Musk has also developed a relationship with GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy, who is poised to become Speaker next year if Republicans take the House. Musk attended a Republican retreat hosted by McCarthy in Wyoming in August, according to reports, and at least one GOP lawmaker tweeted a photo of Musk that week.

Musk has said he’s leaning toward supporting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination and that former President Donald Trump should “sail into the sunset” rather than run again, as he’s teased. That prompted Trump to use an expletive to criticize Musk and his agreement to buy Twitter in July.

--With assistance from and .

(Updates throughout with reaction, background on Musk’s political activity)

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