A TECH tycoon who offered a woman £80,000 to take her face mask off on a flight has broken his silence after being branded a “creep”.
Millionaire Steve Kirsch, 67, insisted the incident was merely a “friendly” exchange to see how much her Covid morals were worth.
Steve Kirsch broke his silence on the controversy surrounding his plane proposition[/caption]
The tech mogul shared a selfie from the flight where he offered a woman £80,000 to remove her face mask[/caption]
He landed himself in hot water last Friday after detailing the strange interaction with a fellow first-class passenger on a Delta Airlines flight.
In a Twitter thread, Kirsch proudly claimed he had offered the woman sitting next to him $100,000 (£82,700) to take off her mask.
The US entrepreneur is a well-known Covid and vaccine sceptic, who has been accused of spreading “misinformation” online about the pandemic.
He posted a smiling selfie and explained he was somewhat baffled that his bizarre proposition had been rejected, despite him drastically bumping up his original £80 bid.
The tech magnate, who is reportedly worth $230million, has now defended his comments after being met with a fiery backlash online.
Kirsch said he was never going to actually hand over the cash and was merely interested in how much money it would theoretically take for her to remove her face covering.
In an interview with Inside Edition, he explained: “It was a hypothetical question, ‘How much would it take for you to remove your mask?’
“I said, “If I offered you $100…$1,000…then I upped it to $100,000.”
“It’s just a cordial conversation, I’m not harassing her at all.
“People think I am aggressively going after people, I’m not doing that at all. We’re having a friendly conversation.”
According to Kirsch, the woman – in her mid 60s – struck up a conversation with him on the flight from San Francisco to Detroit.
The vocal anti-vaxxer told the New York Post he decided to “question the intensity of her belief” after she told him she wanted to protect herself from Covid.
“It highlights the insanity some people have,” he said. “She believes it [the mask] works.”
The Silicon Valley veteran, credited with inventing the first versions of the optical mouse, said he had even shown the passenger the tweet he posted about their encounter.
In the post, Kirsch described how he had noticed the person sitting next to him wearing the mask on the more than four-hour flight.
He wrote: “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.”
He told his 290,000 followers he had also pointed out “that when she removed the mask for eating and drinking, she could be infected with one breath.”
Kirsch claimed she had removed it when breakfast was served, sarcastically adding “because everyone knows you can’t get infected while you are eating.”
The self-described “truth-teller” was slammed by social media users who labeled him a “creep” and an “entitled mansplainer.”
Many accused him of harassing the passenger with his Covid conspiracies while badgering her with questions.
One wrote: “Ew. Do you make a habit of offering money to random women to remove coverings from their bodies mid-air?”
Another said: “I’m sure she appreciated the harassment. What a jerk.”
A third wrote: “This is wildly creepy, you get that, right? Every part of this. From the request, to the expression, to the fact you decided to tweet this.”
A fourth commented: “You’re the type of person everyone hopes to avoid on a plane.”
And a fifth chimed in: “An entitled mansplainer! I bet the lady wished she had another seat.”
In 2020, Kirsch poured $1million into a research fund he created for potential Covid treatments alongside a “powerhouse board” of scientific advisors.
But he performed a dramatic U-turn and become a vocal critic of vaccines, claiming they “kill twice as many as they save”.
A year later, the tech mogul had already founded an anti-vax group and began regularly sharing “misinformation” about the pandemic, according to the MIT Technology Review.
Kirsch constantly shares articles criticising mask-wearers after the mandate on US airlines was scrapped back in April last year.
But passengers are still permitted to make the “personal choice” and decide if they want to wear one.
Kirsch previously got shot down by two Southwest travellers earlier on March 7 after making them a similar offer to remove their masks.
He claimed he said he would pay them $10,000 to take it off for the duration of the flight, but both declined.
The millionaire added: “Maybe I should offer $100,000 next time? This can quantify the amount of brainwashing.”
Kirsch made his money thanks to starting several tech companies, including search engine Infoseek and Frame Technology Corp.
He sold the latter to Adobe in 1995 and flogged the search engine to Disney four years later.
More recently, he created M10 – which markets blockchains for banks – but was asked to step down in 2021 due to the controversy surrounding his Covid conspiracies.
Kirsch made his millions with a series of successful tech start-ups[/caption]
Two Southwest passengers rejected a similar offer from Kirsch on March 7[/caption]
The millionaire, who was branded a creep, said the encounter was friendly[/caption]