Twitter CEO Elon Musk has issued an apology to Haraldur “Halli” Thorleifsson, who was terminated from the social media platform. Musk and Thorleifsson’s Twitter exchanges incited strong reactions from online users, many of whom expressed their disapproval of the CEO’s behavior.
Thorleifsson sold his startup, Ueno, to Twitter in 2021, and as part of the deal, he also joined the social media company. As per his recent posts on Twitter, however, he had lost access to his work computer, and he has not received any word from the company’s human resources team. Frustrated, Thorleifsson opted to ask Musk on Twitter if he was still employed.
Thorleifsson is a prolific user of the social media platform with over 187,000 followers. He also received multiple Person of the Year Awards from various Icelandic media outlets. Thorleifsson is actively supporting efforts to build thousands of wheelchair ramps for disabled individuals across Iceland, and after Ueno’s sale in 2021, he received much acclaim because he opted to pay more taxes.
Musk’s initial responses to Thorleifsson’s inquiries were quite basic, with the CEO simply asking about details of the Twitter employee’s work. Musk’s tone, however, was criticized even by his avid supporters. Later on, Thorleifsson noted that Twitter’s HR had contacted him and he had been informed that he was terminated. Musk later posted critical tweets about Thorleifsson as well.
“The reality is that this guy (who is independently wealthy) did no actual work, claimed as his excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, yet was simultaneously tweeting up a storm. Can’t say I have a lot of respect for that,” Musk wrote.
Musk’s tone and his responses to the Twitter employee caught a lot of flak. The Twitter CEO’s references to Thorleifsson’s disability might have also been a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employers from disclosing employees’ disabilities. Amidst the controversy and criticism — even among his most ardent supporters — Musk backtracked late Tuesday.
“I would like to apologize to Halli for my misunderstanding of his situation. It was based on things I was told that were untrue or, in some cases, true, but not meaningful. He is considering remaining at Twitter,” Musk said. He also noted that he had gone on a video call with Thorleifsson to figure out what was real and what he had been told. Needless to say, the conversation appears to have made Musk realize that he made a notable mistake.