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CEO Linda Yaccarino commits to staying at X even after advertisers flee

X CEO Linda Yaccarino said she is committed to the embattled social media company days after marquee brands pulled their advertising — and even after some ad industry leaders urged her to step down following owner Elon Musk's endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory on the platform formerly known as Twitter.

"While some advertisers may have temporarily paused investments because of a misleading and manipulated article, the data will tell the real story," Yaccarino said in a note to staff Sunday night seen by Yahoo Finance.

She added that X has been clear on its efforts to combat antisemitism and discrimination, "as there's no place for it anywhere in the world."

The fleeing of advertisers came after Musk's inflammatory public comments. Last week the media watchdog group Media Matters also published a report that found ads from major brands, including Amazon (AMZN) and IBM (IBM), had been placed alongside posts on X that supported white nationalism and Nazism.

Tesla and SpaceX's CEO Elon Musk reacts during an in-conversation event with Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. Sunak discussed AI with Elon Musk in a conversation that is played on the social network X, which Musk owns.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, Pool)
Elon Musk is Tesla's and SpaceX's CEO as well as the owner of X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, Pool) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Musk has threatened to sue Media Matters over their findings. Media Matters president and CEO Angelo Carusone said in a statement that Musk is "far from the free speech advocate he claims to be." "Musk is a bully who threatens meritless lawsuits in an attempt to silence reporting," Carusone continued. "If he does sue us, we will win."

X referred Yahoo Finance to Yaccarino's prior remarks when asked about advertiser pressures.

"Elon Musk has made himself into someone that marketers cannot be seen to do business with," said Lou Paskalis, the founder and chief executive of marketing consultancy AJL Advisory. "His increasingly erratic and recently antisemitic tweets and retweets, particularly at a time of rising religious tensions around the globe, have made it impossible for any responsible brand to buy advertising on X," he said on Monday.

Ad executives have also implored Yaccarino to step down, according to Paskalis, since working alongside Musk — and appearing to defend his behavior — risks damaging her own reputation.

But on Monday in a post on X, Yaccarino appeared to reject calls for her to step aside.

"I believe deeply in our vision, our team, and our community. I’m also deeply committed to the truth and there is no other team on earth working as hard as the teams at X. When you’re this consequential, there will be detractors and fabricated distractions, but we’re unwavering in our mission," she said.

The halt of advertising among some of corporate America's biggest names highlights ongoing tensions that have defined Musk's ownership of X and his incendiary leadership style. Apple (AAPL), Disney (DIS), and Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) were among the companies to suspend their advertising on X. The White House also blasted Musk for endorsing what it described as a "hideous" antisemitic conspiracy theory.

Similar to previous bouts of Musk-like behavior, Yaccarino reverted to damage control mode. “X’s point of view has always been very clear that discrimination by everyone should STOP across the board — I think that’s something we can and should all agree on,” she wrote on X last week, after the initial backlash to Musk's remarks.

Questions over how Twitter would handle the thorny issue of content moderation gained even more importance after Musk's buyout last year. Once he took the company private for $44 billion, Musk dramatically cut down the size of Twitter's staff, including through layoffs of those who were responsible for keeping abusive and bigoted content off the platform.

As of last month, X was valued at $19 billion, according to stock grants for employees.

Musk's behavior on X carries broader significance for the other companies he runs, including Tesla (TSLA), which, unlike Twitter, is publicly traded.

"I've never had this with any company I've ever invested in ever in my life where the CEO of the company himself does so many detrimental things that [are] destroying the brand," said longtime Tesla bull Ross Gerber, head of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Investment Management.

Hamza Shaban is a reporter for Yahoo Finance covering markets and the economy. Follow Hamza on Twitter @hshaban.

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