Elon Musk Apologizes for Mocking Disabled Employee

Elon Musk, who has a habit of tweeting before he thinks, publicly scoffed at a Twitter employee of two years after he asked if he still had a job. On Monday, Haraldur Thorleifsson, a senior director at the company, tweeted Musk that access to his work computer had been cut off nine days prior, along with 200 employees who had reportedly been laid off.

In his tweet, Thorleifsson wrote to his boss, “Your head of HR is not able to confirm if I am an employee or not.”

Musk responded by asking, “What work have you been doing?” When Thorleifsson offered a detailed list of his responsibilities and tasks, Musk tweeted that the design manager “did no actual work, claimed as his excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, yet was simultaneously tweeting up a storm.”

Thorleifsson wrote back that he has muscular dystrophy, a disease that causes muscle weakness, and that makes it difficult for him to type for extended periods of time. “I can however write for an hour or two at a time,” he added. “This wasn’t a problem in Twitter 1.0 since I was a senior director and my job was mostly to help teams move forward, give them strategic and tactical advice.” Thorleifsson is based in Iceland and has been recognized by the United Nations and the president of Iceland for leading a charitable effort to build 1,000 wheelchair ramps around Reykjavik.

During his exchange with Musk, Thorleifsson tweeted that Twitter’s human resources department had informed him that he was no longer employed with the company.

However, several hours later, former Lonely Planet CEO Daniel Houghton vouched for the designer and tweeted that he had directly worked with him. “Not only is his work ethic next level, his talent and humility are world class,” wrote Houghton. “Exactly the kind of person you want on your team when the odds are stacked. I feel certain there’s a deep misunderstanding somewhere in here of ‘did no actual work’”


By Tuesday evening, Musk backtracked and posted that he had a video call with Thorleifsson to “figure out what’s real vs what I was told.”

“I would like to apologize to Halli for my misunderstanding of his situation,” wrote Musk. “It was based on things I was told that were untrue or, in some cases, true, but not meaningful.” Lucky for the billionaire, Thorleifsson is reportedly considering staying at Twitter despite his boss’ inability to separate fact from fiction.