Elon Musk
Elon MuskReuters

Elon Musk says he will restore the X account of Nick Fuentes, the Holocaust denier and antisemite who has said “perfidious Jews” should be executed.

“Very well, he will be reinstated, provided he does not violate the law, and let him be crushed by the comments and Community Notes,” Musk said Thursday on the social media platform he bought in 2022 and renamed from Twitter. “It is better to have anti whatever out in the open to be rebutted than grow simmering in the darkness.”

Musk was responding to a plea on the platform from a user whose name, GoyaBeanGroyper, explicitly indicates his affiliation with Fuentes and his brand of antisemitic Christian nationalism. As of Friday morning, Fuentes’ account remained suspended.

Hate speech watchdogs have consistently advocated for deplatforming extremists to diminish their reach. Many argue that rebuttals to hate speech on social media rarely have the intended effect and often end up amplifying the offensive postings.

Musk, who says he is committed to absolute free speech but who has suspended accounts of journalists whose reporting has upset him, returned Fuentes to Twitter for a day in January 2023. Fuentes flooded his feed with antisemitic commentary and within a day his account was suspended again, without comment from the company.

Musk said in exchanges on Thursday with acolytes that he would be a hypocrite to keep suppressing Fuentes.

“I cannot claim to be a defender of free speech, but then permanently ban someone who hasn’t violated the law, no matter how much I disagree with what they say,” said Musk, who has sued or threatened to sue watchdogs that track the proliferation of hate speech since he purchased the platform. “This will probably cause us to lose a lot of advertisers and makes me sad, but a principle is a principle.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), one of the watchdogs Musk has threatened to sue, has also praised him for saying he would ban two phrases common to pro-Palestinian protests — “decolonization,” and “from the river to the sea.” It has also previously criticized some Musk statements, including his invective against progressive megadonor George Soros.

Musk’s free speech commitments remain inconsistent: The same day the said he would restore Fuentes, he proposed deporting people who remove the American flag and fly another in its place.

Fuentes is a Holocaust denier who first gained prominence after participating in the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017. He was banned from Twitter in July 2021, amid the platform’s crackdown on far-right extremists, particularly in the wake of the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He burst back onto the public stage in November 2022, when he and Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, had dinner with former President Donald Trump shortly after Ye embarked on a stream of antisemitic comments on social media and in interviews.

Despite his Twitter ban, Fuentes has maintained his following through a livestream and other direct communications. In December, Fuentes said that “evildoers” need to be “given the death penalty” straight up when “we take power.” Among “evildoers” he named “perfidious Jews.”

“These people that are suppressing the name Christ and suppressing Christianity, they must be absolutely annihilated when we take power,” Fuentes said on his podcast.