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May 20, 2022, 8:29 a.m. EDT

Elon Musk denies that SpaceX paid $250,000 to settle sexual-misconduct claim against him

By Mike Murphy

SpaceX paid a flight attendant $250,000 in 2018 to settle a sexual-misconduct claim against Elon Musk, its founder and chief executive, according to a report Thursday by Business Insider. Musk denied what he called the “wild accusations.”

Citing interviews with a friend of the woman and documents it obtained, Business Insider reported the woman accused Musk of exposing himself to her on a flight to London, rubbed her leg without her consent and offered to buy her a horse in exchange for an erotic massage.

Late Thursday night, Musk called the allegations “utterly untrue.”

The incident reportedly happened in 2016 during an in-flight, full-body massage for Musk, a practice apparently not unusual for the company’s executives.

The flight attendant refused his proposition, Business Insider reported, and filed a complaint with SpaceX’s human-resources department in 2018, claiming that her career opportunities had been hurt by her refusal and that she was being retaliated against.

SpaceX took the issue to a mediator, and the woman signed a $250,000 severance agreement that included a promise not to sue nor to ever discuss the settlement or any information about Musk or his businesses, according to the report.

When asked for comment, Musk — the world’s wealthiest individual, who’s also the CEO of Tesla Inc. (NAS:TSLA) and is engaged in the tortuous process of ostensibly acquiring Twitter Inc. (NYS:TWTR) — reportedly told Business Insider that there was “a lot more to the story” and called it a “politically motivated hit piece.”

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“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,” Musk reportedly wrote.

Tesla’s stock bounced 1.9% in premarket trading Friday, after closing Thursday at a nine-month low. The stock has tumbled 32.9% to date in 2022, while the S&P 500 index (S&P:SPX) has shed 18.2%.

The publication’s request for comment may have been the impetus for Musk to tweet on Wednesday that “Political attacks on me will escalate dramatically in coming months,” and he claimed Democrats, with whom he said he formerly aligned for ”kindness” reasons, were behind a “dirty tricks campaign against me.”

Late Thursday night, Musk tweeted : “The attacks against me should be viewed through a political lens – this is their standard (despicable) playbook – but nothing will deter me from fighting for a good future and your right to free speech.”

He later added, in another tweet : “And, for the record, those wild accusations are utterly untrue.”

While there have been a number of sexual-harassment and misconduct complaints concerning the office cultures at both SpaceX and Tesla , Musk himself has not been the subject of any publicly disclosed misconduct claims before.

An email to SpaceX from MarketWatch seeking comment was not returned late Thursday.

Link to MarketWatch's Slice.