SpaceX Fires Employees Over Letter Critical of CEO Musk

SpaceX has fired “a number of employees” responsible for an open letter critical of the behavior of Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, according to an internal memo, an unusual clash hinting at growing discord over the billionaire’s controversial comments.

The open letter called Musk’s behavior and tweets “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks.” The document, which began circulating among staff in recent days, called on SpaceX leadership to condemn and distance itself from Musk’s “personal brand.”

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president, stated in the memo (which was also seen by Bloomberg) that SpaceX had investigated the open letter, and terminated the employees who were involved.

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The situation “made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views,” Shotwell said in the email. “We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism.”

SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. New York Times reported the firings earlier. According to Reuters, at most five employees were dismissed.

The upheaval is unusual for the rocket-launch and satellite-communications company, which Musk has maintained a tight grip over since founding it two decades ago. Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has approximately 12,000 employees and serves both government agencies, including NASA.

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Musk, who is also CEO at Tesla Inc., generates controversy regularly for his views on political issues, tweets and references to drug culture. Insider revealed last month that SpaceX paid $250,000 to an employee in settlement of a 2016 claim that she had been sexually harassed and harassed under Musk’s leadership. He has pushed back against the allegations, calling them “utterly untrue.”

Musk has also been involved in an uneasy process of acquiring Twitter Inc. for $44 Billion. He met with employees Thursday for the first time, where he said people should be allowed to say “pretty outrageous things” on the social-media platform.

—With assistance from Ed Ludlow.

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