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SpaceX president says in company email she doesn't believe sexual misconduct claims against Elon Musk

Business Insider US
Elon Musk and Gwynne Shotwell.
  • SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell defended Elon Musk following sexual misconduct claims.
  • The top female executive said she didn't believe the allegations against Musk, which Insider first reported.
  • In a companywide email obtained by CNBC, Shotwell said she would "never" comment on legal matters.
  • For more stories visit Business Insider.

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell defended founder Elon Musk in an employee email last week following Insider's report that the company paid a SpaceX flight attendant $250,000 in 2018 after she alleged Musk exposed himself and propositioned her for sex.

"Personally, I believe the allegations to be false; not because I work for Elon, but because I have worked closely with him for 20 years and never seen nor heard anything resembling these allegations," Shotwell wrote in a Friday email to employees obtained by CNBC.

Musk denied the sexual misconduct allegations to Insider last week, saying there is "a lot more to this story," which he called a "politically motivated hit piece."

"If I were inclined to engage in sexual harassment, this is unlikely to be the first time in my entire 30-year career that it comes to light," he wrote.

Neither Musk nor SpaceX's legal department denied that the company gave the flight attendant a $250,000 severance payment.

Shotwell in her companywide email last week pointed to Musk's Twitter denial in which he called the allegations "utterly untrue," according to CNBC. She also said that she "will never comment on any legal matters involving employment issues," the outlet reported.

Shotwell also emphasized SpaceX's "ZERO tolerance" harassment policy, according to CNBC, telling employees that every allegation is investigated and treated seriously, "regardless of who is involved."

A New York Times report that included what appeared to be the entirety of the email, which The Times said was shared by two people who saw it, did not mention any relevant legal settlements.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment regarding Shotwell's email. 

A friend of the flight attendant told Insider that Musk asked her to come to his room during a late 2016 flight for a "full body massage." When she arrived, the flight attendant discovered that Musk was "completely naked except for a sheet covering the lower half of his body." According to a declaration signed by her friend in support of the flight attendant's claim and shared with Insider, the flight attendant said Musk "exposed his genitals" and then touched her and "offered to buy her a horse if she would 'do more.'"

The attendant declined and continued with the massage, according to the declaration. The flight attendant told her friend that her work opportunities began to decline after she refused Musk's advances. In 2018, the attendant hired an employment lawyer and sent a complaint to SpaceX's human resources department explaining the incident.

The company quickly resolved the complaint following a mediation session that Musk personally attended and agreed to the $250,000 payment in exchange for a promise from the attendant that she not sue over the claims, according to Insider's earlier reported story.


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