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Elon Musk Didn’t Want His Latest Deposition Released. Here It Is.



Elon Musk Didn’t Want His Latest Deposition Released. Here It Is.

Elon Musk was deposed last month over his role in allegedly promoting a false conspiracy theory that a 22-year-old Jewish man participated in a neo-Nazi brawl.

Musk tried to keep the deposition from going public, and perhaps for good reason: It did not go well for him.

“There’s some risk that what I say is incorrect, but one has to balance that against having a chilling effect on free speech in general, which would undermine the entire foundation of our democracy,” Musk, the owner of X (formerly Twitter), said during the deposition.

The lawsuit against the billionaire, filed in October, alleges that Musk used his colossal social media platform to amplify a false far-right conspiracy theory linking 22-year-old Ben Brody to a brawl in Oregon between the neo-Nazi group Rose City Nationalists and the Proud Boys, a neo-fascist fight club. The brawl occurred during Oregon City’s first Pride Night Fest, when both groups came to disrupt the event and spew anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric.

Brody wasn’t even in the same state when the June 24 brawl occurred. But his world was turned upside down when far-right X accounts, magnified by Musk, falsely identified him as a member of Rose City Nationalists (and an undercover federal agent) and posted his personal information online.

Musk amplified the conspiracy theory repeatedly to his more than 180 million followers, suggesting Brody was a fresh-faced federal agent pretending to be a neo-Nazi in a “false flag situation,” a phrase used to suggest a harmful event was deliberately set up to misrepresent a group or person.

“Looks like one is a college student (who wants to join the govt) and another is maybe an Antifa member, but nonetheless a probable false flag situation,” Musk posted to X after Brody had been falsely identified as a Rose City Nationalists member. The post remains on X.

Brody said he and his family were forced to flee their home amid the fallout from Musk’s posts. He’s seeking more than $1 million in damages. The next court hearing is scheduled for April 22.

On March 27, Musk sat for a two-hour deposition with attorneys from both parties over Zoom. Following the testimony, Musk’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, filed multiple emergency motions in an attempt to keep the deposition sealed.

“I’m asking that this transcript be marked as confidential,” Spiro said at the end of Musk’s deposition, according to the transcript. “That’s what I’m asking for, OK?”

Spiro’s efforts failed after a judge struck down his motions. Though video of the deposition has not been made public, JS obtained a copy of the full transcript, which was made public Monday.

During his deposition, Musk admitted he has a “limited understanding” of the lawsuit against him, said he thought Brody’s attorney was the one suing him, and revealed he did no research in determining whether Brody was involved in the brawl after seeing the accusations on X.

Musk also made broader admissions about his failures with X — which has plummeted in value since his takeover in 2022 — saying he “may have done more to financially impair” the social media site than help it. Musk also confirmed that he once used a burner account on X seemingly to role-play as his toddler son.

“I’m guilty of many self-inflicted wounds,” Musk testified.

‘Actually, Mr. Musk, I’m An Attorney. Did You Know That?’

From the outset of the deposition, Spiro traded barbs with Brody’s attorney, Mark Bankston, as Musk attempted to answer basic questions about the case.

“Do you think you did anything wrong to Ben Brody?” asked Bankston, who’s based in Houston.

Spiro interjected, saying this “isn’t a question you’re allowed to ask by the court.”

It was the start of what would be a contentious back-and-forth between two high-profile attorneys. Spiro, who has represented celebrities such as Jay-Z and Megan Thee Stallion, previously won a defamation case for Musk after the billionaire called a man who helped rescue children trapped in a cave in Thailand a “pedo guy” in 2018.

“You keep filing these silly, frivolous shake-down cases, I’ll keep trying to think of Texas lawyers to bring to your depositions,” Spiro told Bankston.

Bankston, of the Texas law firm Farrar & Ball, previously represented two Sandy Hook parents who won $45 million in damages against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones after Jones spent years falsely claiming the 2012 school shooting never happened.

Spiro did not respond to a request for comment on this story. Bankston declined to comment.

Throughout his testimony, Musk showed little understanding about the lawsuit he was testifying for, and even said he believed it was Bankston — not Brody — who was suing him.

“I think you’re the one suing,” Musk told Bankston, according to the transcript.

“Actually, Mr. Musk, I’m an attorney,” Bankston explained. “Did you know that? I’m an attorney representing Mr. Brody.”

Asked if Musk understood what the lawsuit was about, Musk admitted he had “a limited understanding of that — of what the lawsuit is about” but suggested again that this was simply a money grab by Brody’s attorney.

“My — what I want to think it’s really about is about you getting a lot of money,” said Musk, who paid $44 billion for Twitter in 2022.

From An Anti-Semitic Account To Elon Musk

Musk learned of the conspiracy theory about Brody from what the lawsuit describes as a fringe X account with more than 30,000 followers that “features extreme rightwing memes, neo-Nazi apologia/nostalgia, juvenile and cringe-worthy attempts at bigoted humor, low effort bait tweets, delusional panics over lazy hoaxes, and a cavalcade of absurdly false information.”

“The account is the social media equivalent of gutter sludge,” the lawsuit says.

The anonymous account, named Dr Frensor, posted a photo of Brody with his personal information found on his college fraternity’s social media page. The caption on the photo of Brody read, “After graduation he plans to work for the government,” which Dr Frensor used to suggest Brody was at the brawl and a federal plant.

“Very odd,” Musk responded. As it goes whenever Musk interacts with a post on X, this one quickly went viral.

In his deposition, Musk was asked whether he’d seen other posts from the Dr Frensor account.

“I wasn’t trying to assess their credibility,” Musk responded.

Bankston showed Musk a meme Dr Frensor had posted the same day the account posted about Brody. More from the transcript:

Bankston: And here it says at the top, ‘Is this meme insensitive to Jewish persons?’ And then there’s a meme of the United Nations’ logo that says, “Founded in 1945 to end all wars, the United Nations. The world has been at war ever since.’ Do you know if you saw this?

Musk: I have not seen this.

B: Okay. Would this have triggered a red flag as to this person’s credibility?

Spiro: Objection to form.

M: I mean, I think it’s a dubious post, but it suggests anti-Semitism.

B: Correct. … I think we all know it reflects anti-Semitism. I’m asking, does this trigger red flags to this person’s reliability?

M: I would say, yes, it probably does.

Still, Musk defended his response to the anti-Semitic account.

“But if you’re suggesting that in order to reply to anyone, you have to scroll through all their posts, that would make it impossible to use the system,” he said of his website.

A Billionaire’s Fact-Checking Process

Contrary to his earlier statements, Musk suggested later on in the deposition that he researches discourse before he joins it.

“If you care about the truth, you have to go look about it,” Musk said.

Musk’s own testimony reveals he did little to seek out the truth.

“Would it be fair for me to say that, other than the tweets that you interacted with, you did not secure other information about this unmasked brawler?” Bankston asked at one point.

“I don’t recall securing other information,” Musk responded.

During his testimony, Musk criticized what he called the “traditional legacy news industry” while lauding X’s Community Notes, a website tool that allows users to add corrections or additional context to misleading or untrue posts.

Musk called Community Notes “the best system on the internet” for fact-checking, and said he tagged Community Notes in his post referencing Brody as a show of “good faith,” the transcript shows.

“And I think — I think I really did this in good faith, because I would not ask for a fact-check which is what I do by adding Community Notes,” Musk said, according to the transcript.

Musk did tag Community Notes in his post about Brody, but a note was never added to the false claim. The post remains on X today without a correction.

Musk was also asked about his interactions with posts on X, which can make an otherwise invisible post go instantly viral. Bankston pointed out that his post on X referring to a “college student who wants to join the govt” was seen more than a million times, according to X’s metrics.

Musk downplayed the number and argued that his post was merely a reply to someone else, which attracted less viewership than his own post would.

Bankston: You do understand that the amount of people who saw this, who have viewed this, is equivalent to all 30 major league baseball stadiums filled to capacity? You wouldn’t dispute that? I mean, we’re talking over a million people.

Spiro: Objection to form.

Musk: Yeah, that’s actually – that may seem like a large number, but it is not compared to the fact – I believe there are something on the order of five to eight trillion views per year so a million is really –

B: Not a big deal?

M: – hit or miss, yeah.

B: Not a big deal that this went out to that many people?

M: Correct.

Elon Musk is being sued for defamation after falsely accusing a recent college graduate of being a neo-Nazi (featured on the left) that was unmasked during an Oregon Pride event that was disrupted by Proud Boys and neo-Nazis.

Illustration: JS; Photos: X/Getty Images

Musk’s ‘Self-Inflicted Wounds’

Over the course of his testimony, Musk acknowledged his lack of restraint in posting on X and the negative impact it’s had on his company.

He called them “self-inflicted wounds,” a reference to his own quote in Walter Isaacson’s 2023 biography about him, though he says he hasn’t read it.

“I certainly — I would say that I — you know, I’m guilty of many self-inflicted wounds,” Musk testified.

Last year, Motherboard and other internet sleuths traced a bizarre account on X to Musk himself. The account, @ermnmusk, appeared to be role-playing as Musk’s toddler son.

“I will finally turn 3 on May 4th!” one post read.

“I wish I was old enough to go to nightclubs. They sound so fun,” read another.

Though the account’s name is not mentioned in the transcript, Monday’s court filing contained an exhibit of the @ermnmusk account that was shown to Musk during his testimony. In the filing, Bankston alleges that Musk deleted the account in February on the same day of the court’s discovery order.

Asked about the account by Bankston during the deposition, Musk confirmed it was his, but dismissed it as a “test account.”

“No, I would not use this account,” Musk testified. “It was just used for — for testing.”

Later in the deposition, Musk again reflected on those “self-inflicted wounds.”

“The — and going back to the sort of self-inflicted wounds, the Kevlar shoes, I think there’s — I’ve probably done — I may have done more to financially impair the company than to help it, but certainly I — I do not guide my posts by what is financially beneficial but what I believe is interesting or important or entertaining to the public,” he said.

A day after Brody had been falsely linked to neo-Nazis, the recent college graduate uploaded a video to Instagram begging for the harassment to stop.

“My family and I are just being harassed completely, and I would be more than happy to clear up any confusion if necessary,” Brody says in the video. “This is just so ridiculous and I just really can’t believe this is happening to me right now.”

Near the end of the deposition, Bankston asked Musk if he believed he owed it to Brody to be accurate. Musk said: “I aspire to be accurate no matter who the person is.”

“Do you think you lived up to that duty to Ben Brody or do you think you failed him?” Bankston asked.

“I don’t think — I don’t think — I don’t think he has been meaningfully harmed by this,” Musk replied.

Bankston pushed Musk on the question, leading to another argument between the two lawyers. Finally, Musk answered, reiterating his belief that he didn’t harm Brody.

“People are attacked all the time in the media, online media, social media, but it is rare that that actually has a meaningful negative impact on their life,” Musk testified.