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SpaceX fires at least 5 employees after internal letter criticizes CEO Elon Musk

SpaceX has fired at least five employees who were involved with circulating a letter around the company that was critical of CEO Elon Musk, according to two people familiar with the company who declined to be named and an internal email from President and COO Gwynne Shotwell.

Shotwell, in a companywide email Thursday, said SpaceX “terminated a number of employees involved” and called “blanketing thousands of people across the company with repeated unsolicited emails” unacceptable, according to copies of the email obtained by CNBC.

The open letter, first reported by The Verge, was circulated earlier this week. More than 400 SpaceX employees signed the letter in just under a day and a half, The Verge reported Friday.

“We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism,” Shotwell wrote, adding the letter “upset many” within the company and “made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied.”

The letter was addressed to company executives, according to media reports, and described the billionaire’s public behavior as “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment” for SpaceX employees. The letter was critical of recent statements made by Musk, largely on Twitter.

“Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks,” the letter read. “As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX, every tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company. It is critical to make clear to our teams and to our potential talent pool that his messaging does not reflect our work, our mission, or our values.”

Last month, Shotwell defended Musk in an email to employees, responding to sexual misconduct allegations directed at the CEO, according to CNBC.

“Personally, I believe the allegations to be false; not because I work for Elon, but because I have worked closely with him for 20 years and never seen nor heard anything resembling these allegations,” Shotwell wrote in a companywide email seen by CNBC.

Musk has denied the allegations, which claim he propositioned a flight attendant on one of SpaceX’s private jets in 2016, calling them “wild accusations.”

ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH 

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE 

PHOTO CREDITS: CNBC

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