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SpaceX fires some employees behind letter denouncing Elon Musk's behavior: reports

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk and the SpaceX team are recognized by Vice President Mike Pence at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center following the launch of the company’s Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station on May 30.
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk and the SpaceX team are recognized by Vice President Mike Pence following the launch of the company’s Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station in May 2020. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

SpaceX has fired some of the employees involved in drafting and distributing within the company a letter criticizing the behavior of founder and CEO Elon Musk, according to media reports.

The letter was posted on an internal SpaceX Microsoft Teams channel that reaches more than 2,600 employees, The Verge reported yesterday (opens in new tab) (June 16). It decries Musk's behavior on Twitter and in other public forums as "a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks."

The letter drew a lot of attention, including, apparently, inside SpaceX's executive offices: By yesterday afternoon, the company had already fired some of the people responsible for writing and sending it, The New York Times reported today (opens in new tab) (June 17).

Elon Musk: Revolutionary private space entrepreneur

The Times cited conversations with three SpaceX employees who wished to remain anonymous and an email to staff from company president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell that the newspaper obtained. In that email, Shotwell wrote that SpaceX had "terminated a number of employees involved" with the letter, according to The Times.

"The letter, solicitations and general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views," Shotwell added, according to The Times. "We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism."

The Times said it was unclear how many employees had been fired for their involvement with the letter. Reuters reported today (opens in new tab) that at least five people have been axed, citing "two people familiar with the matter." SpaceX has not yet responded to requests for comment about the letter and the reported firings, both outlets said.

Musk is very active on Twitter, which he is currently in the process of buying for $44 billion. The world's richest man, he posts frequently on the site, sometimes using it to make crude jokes (opens in new tab), express controversial opinions about public health (opens in new tab) and insult people with whom he is feuding (opens in new tab).

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).  

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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com (opens in new tab) and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.