At least five SpaceX employees have reportedly been fired over a letter that dubbed founder and CEO Elon Musk “a distraction and embarrassment” to the private rocket company.
President and operations chief Gwynne Shotwell said in an email obtained by the New York Times that the company had investigated and “terminated a number of employees involved” with drafting the letter, initially posted Wednesday on a SpaceX messaging channel and then shared on Twitter and across the internet.
“The letter, solicitations and general process 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 wrote. “We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism.”
Titled “an open letter to the Executives of SpaceX,” the note was purportedly penned by employees “across the spectra of gender, ethnicity, seniority, and technical roles” within the company. They included three “action items,” the first of which demands SpaceX “publicly address and condemn Elon’s harmful Twitter behavior.”
“As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX — every Tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company,” it reads. “It is critical to make clear to our teams and to our potential talent pool that his messaging does not reflect our work, our mission, or our values.”
The former employees further demanded that the company should “hold all leadership equally accountable” for bad behavior and that it “clearly define what exactly is intended by SpaceX’s ‘no-asshole’ and ‘zero tolerance’ policies and enforce them consistently.” They pointed specifically to recent sexual misconduct allegations raised against the 50-year-old billionaire.
According to a Business Insider report published last month, based on documents and a series of interviews, SpaceX shelled out $250,000, and asked for a nondisclosure agreement, after its founder was accused of exposing himself and propositioning an employee for sex. Musk called the allegations “utterly untrue” and pointed out the fact that they were only raised after he announced his bid to take over Twitter.