Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Kirsch made headlines when he offered a woman sitting next to him on a plane $100,000 (£83,000) to remove her mask, but his actions were quickly criticized as “creepy”. Despite being taken aback by the woman’s refusal to comply, Kirsch’s offer has drawn significant backlash from those who see it as an inappropriate and insensitive attempt to pressure someone into removing their mask during a pandemic.
Mr. Kirsch faced allegations of spreading Covid-19 misinformation during the pandemic. In a recent incident, he offered a woman $100,000 to remove her mask for the entire flight.
I am on board a Delta flight right now. The person sitting next to me in first class refused $100,000 to remove her mask for the entire flight. No joke. This was after I explained they don’t work. She works for a pharma company. pic.twitter.com/Q8Hwzhkmxf— Steve Kirsch (@stkirsch) March 10, 2023
According to Kirsch, the woman was seated next to him in first class and refused to comply with his request despite his explanations that masks don’t work. Kirsch also claimed that he initially offered the woman $100 and pointed out that she could be infected with one breath when she removes her mask for eating and drinking, implying that she had full knowledge of the risks.
However, his actions have been criticized as irresponsible and insensitive, particularly during a pandemic where mask-wearing is recommended by health officials to help prevent the spread of the virus.
As soon as breakfast was served, the woman in question took off her mask, supposedly because she believed that eating meant she couldn’t get infected. In a joking manner, Mr. Kirsch compared her to those who invested in the now-collapsed tech bank SVB, saying he may sit next to someone who had an account with them next time.
However, his comments were met with criticism by other Twitter users who found his behavior inappropriate and unprofessional.
One wrote: “Did you have the $100,000 in cash? If not, you sound like a lunatic. How could they trust you’d pay up?”
Another Twitter user commented on the incident, stating that the woman probably didn’t believe that Mr. Kirsch could even afford $5.
This is not the first time that he has made similar requests during flights and been turned down. Just three days prior, he had asked two other passengers if they would remove their masks for the duration of the flight in exchange for $10,000 each, but both declined the offer. Kirsch then joked that perhaps he should offer $100,000 next time.
His propositions were criticised by other online folk.
One wrote: “Women don’t want to make deals with creepy men on planes. It’s not complicated.”
Another: “Do you make a habit of offering money to random women to remove coverings from their bodies mid-air?”
A Twitter user responded to Mr. Kirsch’s offer, criticizing the amount of money he was willing to pay and pointing out that it wouldn’t even begin to cover the potential hospital bills that could result from contracting Covid-19.
The user shared their own experience of being hospitalized for Covid-19, which resulted in hospital bills of over $300,000, as well as a loss of clients and income, lung damage, and ongoing recovery and support expenses.
They stated that they would need a minimum of $5 million in cash to cover all their expenses. The user also mentioned that they had worn a mask on the plane but still contracted Covid-19 and were now suffering from long Covid, with physical therapy bills that were much higher than Mr. Kirsch’s offer of $10,000.