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SpaceX President Defends Elon Musk Over Sexual Misconduct Claims: ‘I Believe the Allegations to Be False'

NASA/Kim Shiflett
  • SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell defended Elon Musk in an email to employees last week responding to sexual misconduct allegations directed at the company's CEO, CNBC has learned.
  • "Personally, I believe the allegations to be false; not because I work for Elon, but because I have worked closely with him for 20 years and never seen nor heard anything resembling these allegations," Shotwell wrote.
  • Musk has denied the allegations, which claim he propositioned a flight attendant on one of SpaceX's private jets in 2016, calling them "wild accusations."

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell defended Elon Musk in an email to employees last week, responding to sexual misconduct allegations directed at the CEO, CNBC has learned.

"Personally, I believe the allegations to be false; not because I work for Elon, but because I have worked closely with him for 20 years and never seen nor heard anything resembling these allegations," Shotwell wrote in a companywide email sent on Friday and seen by CNBC.

Musk has denied the allegations, which claim he propositioned a flight attendant on one of SpaceX's private jets in 2016, calling them "wild accusations."

In a response to Business Insider, which reported the allegations and that the flight attendant was paid $250,000 severance after confronting the company, Musk said there is "a lot more to this story," describing it as a "politically motivated hit piece." Neither Musk nor SpaceX's vice president of the legal department, Christopher Cardaci, denied the payment in statements to Business Insider.

Shotwell emphasized in her email that she "will never comment on any legal matters involving employment issues" before noting Musk publicly denied the allegations as "utterly untrue" in a tweet.

Shotwell, who is No. 2 at SpaceX and the company's top female executive, also noted in the email that SpaceX has a "ZERO tolerance" policy for harassment, adding that every accusation is taken seriously and investigated, "regardless of who is involved."

SpaceX did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment on Shotwell's email.

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell
Jay Westcott / NASA
SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell

Shotwell has previously described SpaceX as having a "no assholes" policy, though the company has faced complaints before. In December, Ashley Kosak, a then-employee of SpaceX, alleged in an essay that the company is "rife with sexism" and that its human resources team does not protect victims of harassment or abuse.

The company is based in Los Angeles and employs about 10,000 people across the U.S.

The allegations against Musk come as SpaceX looks to raise $1.7 billion in new funding, CNBC reported on Sunday. The round values SpaceX at about $127 billion, making it the most valuable private company in the U.S., according to CB Insights data.

SpaceX has raised billions over the past few years to fund work on two capital-intensive projects: the next generation rocket Starship and Starlink, the global satellite internet network.

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