Elon Musk has apologized after publicly mocking a Twitter employee with a disability who was uncertain if he had been laid off by the social media company. Musk questioned the work performance of the former employee, Haraldur Thorleifsson, and said that he had “done almost no work for the past four months.”
Thorleifsson, who goes by "Halli," opened his work computer last Sunday and found that he had been logged out. Thorleifsson tweeted Musk on Monday saying that he failed to get a response from Twitter's HR department, and hoped to get clarity about whether he was still employed at the company.
Dear @elonmusk 👋
9 days ago the access to my work computer was cut, along with about 200 other Twitter employees.
However your head of HR is not able to confirm if I am an employee or not. You've not answered my emails.
Maybe if enough people retweet you'll answer me here?
— Halli (@iamharaldur) March 6, 2023
Musk responded in a tweet, asking "what work have you been doing?" Thorleifsson replied with a list of his tasks, noting that he saved the company $500,000 on a software-as-a-service contract, among other things. Musk doubted his responses and replied: "pics or it didn't happen." Musk also questioned Thorleifsson's value at the company and said he was using his disability as an excuse. Thorleifsson clarified in a tweet that he has muscular dystrophy.
"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," Musk said in a tweet. "Can't say I have a lot of respect for that."
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.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 7, 2023
While the exchange was going on, Thorleifsson said he was informed that he was no longer employed at the company.
Thorleifsson, who lives in Iceland, joined Twitter in 2021 when the social network acquired his startup Ueno. He has been recognized by the United Nations for leading a charitable effort to build 1,000 ramps around Reykjavik.
After facing backlash, Musk had a change of heart and called the situation a "misunderstanding."
“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,” Musk said in a tweet. “He is considering remaining at Twitter.”
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.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 7, 2023
The exchange isn't the first time that Musk has publicly mocked Twitter employees. Last November, the Twitter CEO used a sarcastic tweet to mock Twitter staff he'd fired for criticizing him. In another instance, he said one former employee had "a tragic case of adult onset Tourette's" after she criticized him in a series of tweets.
The latest jarring situation comes as Twitter has been struggling to stay online. On Monday, the social network experienced a significant outage. Just a few days before that, many parts of the social network, including the timeline, were broken for users all over the world. Last month, Twitter started showing users that they were over their “daily rate limit,” while another bug was preventing people from following other users. After Musk took over Twitter last October and fired thousands of employees, many feared that the social network would slowly fall apart.