Elon apologizes after mocking an ex-employee with a disability
Thorleifsson confirmed that he has muscular dystrophy, a degenerative illness.

Elon has made an apology after mocking a Twitter worker’s doubts about whether he had been let go in a recent wave of layoffs and mocking the individual’s disability in a Twitter thread Monday evening.

“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 tweeted Tuesday. “He is considering remaining at Twitter.”

An earlier post from Haraldur Thorleifsson, a senior director for Twitter headquartered in Iceland, informed Elon that accessibility to his computer had been disabled nine days prior to the alleged 200-employee layoff at Twitter. Yet, “your head of HR is not able to confirm if I am an employee or not,” he wrote in a Twitter post.

Musk responded in a tweet asking, “what work have you been doing?” When Thorleifsson provided a list of his tasks in response, Musk appeared to cast doubt on several points.

“Pics or it didn’t happen,” he tweeted. In a separate tweet, the billionaire said Thorleifsson “did no actual work, claimed as an excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing.”

In a Twitter post, Thorleifsson confirmed that he has muscular dystrophy, a degenerative illness that, according to him, left him in a wheelchair more than twenty years ago.

The United Nations and the president of Iceland have acknowledged Thorleifsson for leading a philanthropic initiative to create 1,000 wheelchair ramps throughout Reykjavik to boost the city’s accessibility. Thorleifsson started a digital branding firm that was purchased by Twitter in 2021.

“I’m not able to do manual work (which in this case means typing or using a mouse) for extended periods of time without my hands starting to cramp,” he said. “I can however write for an hour or two at a time. This wasn’t a problem in Twitter 1.0 since I was a senior director and my job was mostly to help teams move forward, give them strategic and tactical advice.”

One of the richest men in the world, Elon, has previously made fun of Twitter workers in public. Musk paid $44 billion for Twitter last year. In one instance, he openly called out a previous employee’s tweets regarding him and claimed they were the product of “a tragic case of adult onset Tourette’s.” He also got into an argument with previous Twitter executives on the site and fired staff who criticized him.

FILE – Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaks at the SATELLITE Conference and Exhibition, March 9, 2020, in Washington. After nine days of being locked out of his Twitter work computer, Haraldur Thorleifsson tweeted at owner Elon Musk, Monday, March 6, 2023, to find out whether or not he’d been fired. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

The jarring sight of a company owner making fun of a worker in public brings attention to the unusual workplace circus that Twitter employees have undergone over the past year. Musk made a threat to back out of the agreement, finalized the transaction, and then started many rounds of layoffs. Dozens of former Twitter workers are currently suing the firm, claiming unfulfilled compensation obligations and, in some cases, discrimination, particularly against employees with disabilities.

The site seems to be having difficulty staying online in the meantime. In one of its worst failures since Musk took control of the company on Monday, many users were unable to access Twitter at all and others had trouble clicking on links or viewing pictures for roughly 60 minutes.

It was the third significant technical problem Twitter has experienced in less than a month, as a result of Musk’s workforce reductions (from roughly 7,500 employees prior to his acquisition to fewer than 2,000) and other cost-cutting measures.

Thorleifsson stated after his conversation with Musk that Twitter’s HR director had confirmed his removal from the firm.

“Which is totally ok and it happens all the time … They usually tell people about it but that’s seemingly the optional part at Twitter now,” he said. “Next up though is finding out if Twitter will pay me what they owe me per my contract.”