Why Bill Ackman says Harvard needs to answer for antisemitism, but says Elon Musk's comments are OK

A split image of Elon Musk (left) and Bill Ackman (right)
Bill Ackman (right) has criticized elite universities for their policies on antisemitism but was more forgiving when it came to Elon Musk.Bryan Bedder/Getty Images; Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
  • Bill Ackman is on the warpath against elite universities.

  • The hedge fund boss says top schools like Harvard are letting antisemitism run rampant on campus.

  • Ackman struck a more forgiving tone when Elon Musk was caught in his own antisemitism controversy.

For weeks, hedge fund manager Bill Ackman has accused elite universities of allowing antisemitism to spread on campus in the aftermath of Hamas' attack on Israel.

His criticism reached a crescendo this week. The Pershing Square CEO highlighted a disastrous congressional hearing on Wednesday where leaders of Harvard, MIT, and UPenn wouldn't outright condemn calls for genocide against Jews.

The hearing sparked a revolt from some top donors and allies of the schools. A UPenn donor threatened to pull a $100 million donation to the school and a rabbi on Harvard's antisemitism advisory committee resigned.

Ackman himself has been one of the most vocal critics of the schools, calling for their presidents to "resign in disgrace."

Within a day of the hearing, Harvard's president apologized.

"I got caught up in what had become at that point, an extended, combative exchange about policies and procedures," Claudine Gay told Harvard student newspaper The Harvard Crimson. "What I should have had the presence of mind to do in that moment was return to my guiding truth, which is that calls for violence against our Jewish community — threats to our Jewish students — have no place at Harvard, and will never go unchallenged."

Ackman hasn't let up his criticism of Gay. On Thursday, he alleged that during the job search for Harvard's president, the school refused to consider candidates who didn't meet fulfill DEI initiatives. Gay is a Black woman.

"I learned from someone with first person knowledge of the @Harvard president search that the committee would not consider a candidate who did not meet the DEI office's criteria.," Ackman said on X, without saying who he spoke to.

He continued it is "not good for those awarded the office of president who find themselves in a role that they likely would not have obtained were it not for a fat finger on the scale."

Even before the presidents' comments during the Congressional hearing on Wednesday, Ackman had publicly berated universities for not doing more to address antisemitism, calling on Harvard to suspend students for staging pro-Palestinian rallies and slamming Harvard's failure to address antisemitism as a "canary in the coal mine" that he said hints at further discrimination.

Ackman was quick to absolve Elon Musk

The hedge fund boss seemed far less concerned when X CEO Elon Musk found himself embroiled in his own antisemitic controversy.

Last month, Musk sympathized with an antisemitic post on his social media platform (formerly Twitter).

The comment came in response to a post calling for an end to hatred against Jews.

An X user replied, invoking antisemitic tropes that "Jewish communities" were pushing "hatred against whites."

The user claimed that Jewish people in the West had supported "hordes of minorities" flooding their countries but now realized that those minorities didn't like them back.

Musk replied to the antisemitic post and said it was the "actual truth."

Ackman was quick to come to Musk's defense. He backed the take of right-wing commentator Ben Shapiro and Ackman noted that his fellow billionaire was "not perfect," but wasn't an antisemite and that "the world is a vastly better place because of him."

Ackman brushed off Musk's remark as "shoot from the hip commentary" and later wrote a full-throated defense of Musk on November 30 after major advertisers bailed from X and Musk said in an interview he didn't intend to support antisemitic posts.

"Musk is a free speech absolutist which I respect," Ackman wrote on November 30. "I think he is entirely correct that he and @X are treated unfairly and inconsistently by advertisers."

"After examining the facts, it was clear to me that Musk did not have antisemitic intent when he responded with the 'actual truth' tweet, and further clarified thereafter."

Read the original article on Business Insider