Troublesome tweets that followed Submerged cave rescue have Tesla CEO Elon Musk facing defamation trial by British diver he dubbed a pedophile
Elon Musk is going on trial Tuesday for his troublesome tweets in a defamation case pitting the billionaire against a British diver he branded a pedophile.
The Tesla CEO is going to be called to announce early in the case in Los Angeles federal court to clarify what he meant when he called Vernon Unsworth, who helped rescue childhood football players trapped underwater in a Thailand cave, “pedo guy” at a Twitter spat over year ago.
Musk later apologized for lashing out at Unsworth on Twitter following the diver belittled Musk’s attempts to construct a very small submarine to rescue the trapped boys as a “PR stunt.” The tweet, broadly interpreted as a reference to a pedophile, was eliminated by Musk, who contested that is what he meant.
“‘Pedo guy’ was a common insult used in South Africa when I was growing up,” Musk said in a court statement. “It is synonymous with ‘creepy old man’ and is used to insult a person’s appearance and demeanor.”
Unsworth’s attorneys have laughed off that excuse and stated his claim was undercut with a subsequent tweet when he stated, “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true” in response to a query about whether he’d accused Unsworth of being a pedophile.
The attorneys also said he hired private investigators to dig up evidence Unsworth was a child molester, which they never discovered, based on Unsworth’s attorneys.
The lawsuit isn’t the first time Musk’s tweets have landed him in hot water.
Musk and Tesla reached a $40 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year on allegations he misled investors with a tweet announcing he had secured financing to buy out the electric automobile maker. He agreed in the settlement to have future tweets about the firm screened.
He had been forced back into court on accusations that he violated that agreement by tweeting a misleading figure about how many cars Tesla would fabricate this year. The SEC sought to hold him in contempt of court, which resulted in a new arrangement imposing tighter controls on Musk’s tweets about the business.
The cave drama performed for two or more weeks in the summer of 2018 when the 12 boys — ages 11-16 — and their football coach were trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand.
Musk and engineers out of his SpaceX rocket firm custom built a mini-submarine to aid with the rescue. The apparatus was heavily publicized but not used.
Unsworth, a diver and caving expert whose advice has been considered crucial in the rescue operation, said the sub would not have fit in the cave’s tight spaces. He told CNN that Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.”
Musk responded two days after his series of tweets.
Musk claims he was not making a factual statement and nobody reading his tweet would take it seriously and translate it .
Despite removing the tweets, he later suggested in mails to the news site BuzzFeed which Unsworth was a “child rapist” and had moved to northern Thailand to take “a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time.” He provided no evidence.
Unsworth is seeking unspecified damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress. The defense has resisted attempts to turn over financial records to reveal Musk’s riches but has given his net worth exceeds $20 billion.