"That’s a disgrace."
On Friday, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted an idea for a new university with a vulgar name.
It was a crude outburst, even by the billionaire’s often-childish standards, but several of his followup tweets appear to have crossed a line even for him or his handlers — because, after an outcry, he deleted them, in a rare reversal for the decorum-shredding Musk.
The more disturbing of the since-deleted tweets implied in objectifying terms that at Musk’s new university, degrees would be awarded based on women’s physical characteristics.
“That’s a disgrace,” read one reply.
Others were disturbed by the implications of Musk’s original joke as well.
“I was trying to put my finger on why this makes my skin crawl,” wrote Zoë Ayres, a scientist and activist. “Perhaps it’s because it’s by one of the most powerful men in the world. Perhaps it’s due to how rife sexual harassment is in academia. Perhaps it’s because if I’m bothered by it, it’ll be met with ‘it’s just a joke.'”
Musk-world is opaque. It’s possible that Musk thought better of his tweets on his own, or after seeing the backlash to them online.
But it’s also possible that handlers at Tesla, SpaceX or elsewhere had to intervene, telling him that he was endangering those business interests by alienating women.
Regardless, Musk seems to have realized, on some level, that he’d gone too far.
“Used to be that u only had 140 characters to dig ur own grave,” he wrote in yet another now-deleted tweet.
READ MORE: With sexist jokes, Elon Musk’s tweets sink to a new low [Mashable]
More on Elon Musk: Elon Musk Says He Wants to Use Wealth to Get Humans to Mars, Not Pay Taxes