ACLU Believes Elon Musk Donated $500K to Org in Amber Heard’s Name

  • Amber Heard pledged to donate $3.5 million of her $7 million divorce settlement with Johnny Depp to the ACLU.
  • ACLU COO and General Counsel Terence Dougherty testified Thursday that they received only $1.3 million.
  • Of that amount, they believe that $500,000 came from Elon Musk, who Heard dated after Depp.

When Johnny Depp and Amber Heard reached a settlement in their divorce in 2016, Heard announced that she would be donating the entirety of her $7 million payout to charity. She said the money would be split between two organizations: the ACLU and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

But the ACLU says they never received the full $3.5 million they were promised, and believe about half of the donations they received in Heard’s name actually came from Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of Tesla who Heard started dating after her breakup with Depp.

Terence Dougherty, general counsel and COO of the ACLU, spoke about Heard’s donations to the non-profit in a pre-recorded deposition which was played in Depp’s defamation trial against Heard on Thursday.

Depp has accused Heard of ruining his reputation and career by insinuating that she had been the victim of domestic violence in a 2018 Washington Post 0p-ed. Heard has denied Depp’s defamation allegations and says he physically assaulted her on multiple occasions before and during their marriage.

Johnny Depp

Actor Johnny Depp attends his defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard, in Fairfax, Virginia, on April 28, 2022.

Michael Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS

Dougherty says the ACLU received four donations in Heard’s name, totaling $1.3 million.

Only one of those payments was from Heard directly: A payment for $350,000, in August 2016.

The other payments included a $100,000 check from Johnny Depp; $500,000 from a donor-advised fund at Vanguard; and $350,000 from a donor-advised fund at Fidelity.

Dougherty says the ACLU believes that the $500,000 Vanguard payment was from a fund set up by Elon Musk.

Musk had emailed Anthony Romero, the executive director of the ACLU, indicating that Heard would donate the total $3.5 million over a 10-year period, Dougherty testified.

“Amber, I described your plan to donate $3.5 billion to the ACLU over the next 10 years as you very much believe what you were doing,” Musk wrote in an email sent to Romero in August 2016.

But Heard never donated the rest of the money, and she never signed a pledge form that ACLU staffers prepared for her, according to Dougherty.

Heard asked the ACLU not to issue a press release about her $3.5 million pledge, Dougherty tested.

In 2019, when the ACLU expected the next installment. It never came.

“We reached out to Heard starting in 2019 for the next installment of her giving and we learned that she was having financial difficulties,” Dougherty said.

Insider reached out to Musk for comment on the donation in Heard’s name on Thursday but did not immediately receive a response. A representative for Heard didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Within months of Depp and Heard’s split in May 2016, rumors started to swirl about her dating Musk.

In text messages shown in court on Wednesday, Heard admitted to her former agent that she never really loved Musk, when reports they had broken up hit the news in August 2017.

In December 2018, the same day Heard’s op-ed in the Washington Post was published, Heard announced she had taken on a role as an ACLU ambassador on women’s rights. ACLU lawyers — including David Cole, the national legal director who has argued before the Supreme Court numerous times — had helped draft the op-ed, Dougherty testified.

After Twitter announced on Monday that it reached a deal with Elon Musk to purchase the platform for $44 billion, the ACLU described the billionaire as “one of our most significant supporters” but said people should be anxious about the potential impact of his ownership.

“We should be worried about any powerful central actor, whether it’s a government or any wealthy individual — even if it’s an ACLU member — having so much control over the boundaries of our political speech online,” Romero said in a statement.

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