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Elon Musk curses out advertisers who left X over antisemitic content

(Note strong language in paragraphs 1 and 5)

By Sheila Dang

Nov 29 (Reuters) - Billionaire Elon Musk told advertisers that have fled his social media platform X over antisemitic content to "go fuck yourself" in a fiery Wednesday interview.

His profanity-laced remarks followed a moment of contrition in a New York Times DealBook Summit interview, as he first said "I'm sorry" for a tweet that agreed with an anti-Jewish post on X on Nov. 15.

Musk has faced a torrent of criticism since he on Nov. 15 agreed with a user who falsely claimed Jewish people were stoking hatred against white people, saying the user who referenced the "Great Replacement" conspiracy theory was speaking "the actual truth."

On Wednesday Musk said he had "handed a loaded gun" to detractors, describing his post as possibly the worst he had made during a history of messages that included many "foolish" ones.

The Tesla CEO bristled at the idea that he was antisemitic and said that advertisers who left X, formerly known as Twitter, should not think they could blackmail him, saying "fuck you" numerous times. At one point he added the words "Hey Bob," an apparent reference to Robert Iger, chief executive of Walt Disney, which pulled ads on X.

The "Great Replacement" theory holds that Jewish people and leftists are engineering the ethnic and cultural replacement of white populations with non-white immigrants that will lead to a "white genocide."

Musk's post drew condemnation from the White House for what it called an "abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate."

Following the post, major U.S. companies including Walt Disney, Warner Bros Discovery and NBCUniversal parent Comcast suspended their ads on X. A report from liberal watchdog group Media Matters precipitated the advertiser exit, which said it found ads next to posts that supported Nazism. The platform filed a lawsuit last week against Media Matters for defamation.

In the wake of the condemnation, Musk traveled to Israel and toured the site of Hamas' assault in the country on Oct. 7. On Monday, he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday in a live-streamed conversation on X.

Musk on Wednesday said the trip had been planned before his message and was "independent" of the issue.

Musk in Israel said he is against antisemitism and anything that "promotes hate and conflict" and stated that X would not promote hate speech.

"The fact that you came here speaks volumes of your commitment to try to secure a better future," Netanyahu told Musk during the conversation.

The two men previously met at Tesla's headquarters in California in September to discuss the merits and dangers of advanced artificial intelligence.

During the conversation, which took place shortly after Musk attacked the Anti-Defamation League, Netanyahu urged the billionaire to strike a balance between the protection of free speech online and fighting hate speech.

(Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas; Editing by David Gaffen and Lisa Shumaker)