Linda Yaccarino Defends Elon Musk, Asks Who Wouldn’t Want Him “Sitting By Their Side?”

Linda Yaccarino spoke glowingly of Elon Musk, said X will turn a profit in early 2024, and insisted the platform formerly known as Twitter has made major progress in reversing lagging metrics in her 100 days as CEO.

In an interview at Vox Media’s annual CODE conference, she pushed back on the assumption that she was hired solely to placate advertisers. She addressed the recent controversy with the ADL and also got into it with Yael Roth, the former head of safety at Twitter, who spoke at the same event earlier in the day.

Yaccarino, the longtime ad executive and former advertising chief at NBCUniversal, joined Twitter in June and, in fact, began to woo back advertisers who had been spooked by a geyser of negative content that erupted after Musk acquired the social media platform a year ago and took it private. He then renamed it X.

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Musk recently Tweet-floated a plan to start charging all X users a monthly subscription fee. CNBC’s Julia Boorstin asked if he’d consulted her first on that. “We talk about everything,” Yaccarino said. Adding, “Do you think Elon brought me to the company to be the head of advertising?” alone. Yes, it’s a big part of her experience, but, she said, “I think my background is being a very senior executive.”

The product team does not report to her but to Musk but the exec said the structure doesn’t matter. “Who wouldn’t want Elon Musk sitting by their side?” There was some laughter from the audience and Boorstin said, “l see a show of hands.”

There’s been a lot of X-related matter swirling lately, from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Elon Musk, to a long FT interview with Yaccarino yesterday. Today, The Information reported that Musk had cut half of his election integrity team. Yaccarino called the news a half truth and said she had added two people to that team today and continues to beef it up.

Musk has not gone into what Isaacson calls “demon” mode with her – yet, she said, but has been very available and “consistently supportive.”

The FT story lingered on the fact that Musk had blindsided his incoming chief executive by announcing her move before she’d told her bosses, and as she was prepping for NBCU’s annual upfront presentation.

More recently, Musk kicked up a controversy when he threated to sue the Anti-Defamation League for protesting anti-Semitism and hate speech on X – just a few weeks after Yaccarino had a long and supposedly productive meeting with ADL chief Jonathan Greenblatt. Musk blamed the group for X’s declining ad revenue.

Yaccarino acknowledged the meeting but said the ADL should also acknowledge progress X has made, and that Musk has a right to speak his mind. In a blog post, X laid out its “”ongoing commitment to combat antisemitism” on the platform. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Musk to helo roll back anti-Semitism on Twitter. Yesterday a group of 100 Jewish leaders released a letter criticizing X and Musk for enabling a “new stage of antisemetic discourse.” 

Yaccarino said Musk is planning to appear on Spaces with a group of Jewish leaders “to discuss anti-Semitism and how we can help.”

“The foundation of X is based on free expression and freedom of speech. Everyone deserves to have that opportunity no matter who they are, including Elon.”

She also got into it with Yael Roth, Twitter’s former head of safety, who spoke earlier at the event. Roth has said was forced to sell his house and move after leaving the company. Yaccarino herself, in the FT story, expressed distress that her new role made her a target on social media.

Roth sympathized with the “abuse and harassment targeted at her.”

“No one should have to experience that…Be worried. You should be worried. I wish I had been more worried,” he said after Musk basically accused him on Twitter of being a pedophile in a post that read it looks like “Yoel is arguing in favor of children being able to access adult internet services in his PhD thesis” with a screenshot of an out-of-context excerpt from Roth’s dissertation.

“I appreciate Yael’s comments. I assume they were authentic,” she said, noting that CEOs often hav to confront situations like that “because of the pubic nature of their position.”

“He doesn’t know me. I don’t know him,” she said. “He worked at Twitter. I work at X.”

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