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Elon Musk apologizes to the Twitter designer he publicly mocked

Twitter owner Elon Musk has had a sudden change in heart regarding a now-former employee who he publicly ridiculed in front of his more than 130 million followers on the platform.On Tuesday, Musk apologized to Haraldur Thorleifsson, a former senior director of product design at the company, for claiming the designer wasn’t doing work at the company and insinuated that Thorleifsson was lying about his disability. Thorleifsson has muscular dystrophy and started using a wheelchair 20 years ago.Musk chalked the issue up to a “misunderstanding.” Tweet may have been deleted (opens in a new tab) “I just did a videocall with Halli to figure out what’s real vs what I was told,” Musk tweeted in a reply to another Twitter user who vouched for Thorleifsson, who is a well respected designer in the industry. Twitter had acquired Thorleifsson’s design agency Ueno in 2021, and he has worked at the social media platform ever since. “It’s a long story,” said Musk. “Better to talk to people than communicate via tweet.” “I would like to apologize to Halli for my misunderstanding of his situation,” Musk continued. “It was based on things I was told that were untrue or, in some cases, true, but not meaningful.”Musk ended his tweets on the issue by saying that Thorleifsson was considering “remaining” at Twitter.Musk’s attack on Thorleifsson began on Monday evening when the Icelandic designer simply tweeted at Musk to inquire about his employment status. According to Thorleifsson, he had been locked out of his company laptop for 9 days, however, Twitter’s HR department was unsure if he was still employed or not. After a week, he decided to ask Musk via Twitter. Tweet may have been deleted (opens in a new tab) Musk responded by asking Thorleifsson what he’d been doing for the company and then proceeded to heckle the designer for his answers. Musk’s fans further piled-on and also attacked the designer as this played out in public on Twitter.For those that knew Thorleifsson, Musk’s version of events didn’t line up with reality. The designer’s company was acquired by Twitter in 2021, specifically because Twitter wanted Thorleifsson to work directly for them due to the quality of his work. The designer has also recently won numerous “person of the year” awards in Iceland, where he is currently building wheelchair ramps as part of an accessibility initiative he started.It’s unclear what caused Musk to change his mind about Thorleifsson and apologize. However, many on social media have speculated that it has to do with how much it would cost Musk to fire Thorleifsson.When Twitter acquired Thorleifsson’s company, he requested he get paid out via his salary as he wanted to maximize the amount in taxes he’d pay. The designer says he did this to show his appreciation to Iceland’s social welfare system. But, that likely means that if he’s fired, Twitter has to payout the remaining amount from the acquisition in one lump sum. In fact, according to a report from Platformer, Thorleifsson was on an internal “do not fire” list, which was composed of founders of companies that Twitter had acquired. These individuals all reportedly have hefty exit packages as part of their employment terms at Twitter.


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