(NEW YORK) — Elon Musk elicited backlash from liberal leaders and cheers from some conservative ones in response to a viral tweet on Sunday that called for Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious disease, to be prosecuted.
The polarizing tweet, which garnered more than a million “likes,” arrived about six weeks after Musk told advertisers that he sought to make Twitter “a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner.”
Musk, a longtime critic of COVID-19 lockdowns, who has voiced a series of conservative opinions since acquiring Twitter in October, tweeted: “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci.”
The message to Musk’s 120 million followers appeared to attack Fauci while mocking members of the LGBTQ community and allies who sometimes state their pronouns to communicate their gender identity.
Fauci, the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He will step down from his current roles later this month.
Many liberal lawmakers and commentators condemned Musk’s tweet, defending Fauci and expressing support for LGBTQ people.
“I’m a big fan of Dr. Fauci and how he’s calmly guided our country through crisis,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said. “Courting vaccine deniers doesn’t seem like a smart business strategy, but the issue is this: could you just leave a good man alone in your seemingly endless quest for attention?”
Astronaut Scott Kelly, the twin brother of Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz, tweeted to his 5.3 million followers: “Elon, please don’t mock and promote hate toward already marginalized and at-risk-of-violence members of the #LGBTQ+ community.”
“Furthermore, Dr Fauci is a dedicated public servant whose sole motivation was saving lives,” Kelly added.
Some far-right conservative leaders, by contrast, praised the message from Musk.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Ga., whom Musk reinstated on Twitter after a previous permanent ban over the spread of COVID-19 misinformation, applauded the attack on Fauci.
“I affirm your pronouns Elon,” Greene said.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent anti-vaccine activist, celebrated Musk for “looking beyond the propaganda.”
The tweet targeting Fauci came hours after Musk shared a meme that mocked Fauci over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The comments from Musk are the latest in a series of conservative Twitter posts, including an endorsement last month for Republican candidates in the midterm elections.
Since he acquired Twitter in October, Musk has made some changes long sought by conservatives. He reinstated some formerly suspended accounts such as those belonging to Republican leaders like former President Donald Trump and Greene, and he stopped enforcement of a policy prohibiting the spread of COVID-19 misinformation.
Musk also revamped Twitter’s subscription service, Twitter Blue, allowing users to access verification if they pay a monthly fee of $8. The service was suspended after it gave rise to a flood of fake accounts impersonating public figures and brands but has since been reinstated.
A slew of major companies, including General Motors and Pfizer, have announced a pause of advertising on Twitter. Some of the companies have said they need time to evaluate their advertising presence on Twitter as the company pursues a new direction.
Musk, who said he overpaid for the platform at the purchasing price of $44 billion, faces pressure to boost the company’s revenue. Last month, he said that the company is losing $4 million each day.
On the same day as the tweet targeting Fauci, Musk endured an extended chorus of loud boos after being brought on stage at a comedy performance by Dave Chappelle at the Chase Arena in San Francisco.
A video posted on Twitter shows crowd members booing Musk while he stands on stage alongside Chappelle.
“Ladies and gentlemen, make some noise for the richest man in the world,” Chappelle told the audience.
After the boos, Musk told Chappelle: “You weren’t expecting this, were you?”
Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.