The British cave diver who helped save a trapped Thai soccer team has sued volatile Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk for inexplicably calling him a “child rapist” and “pedo guy.”
British diver Vernon Unsworth, who aided in the rescue of 12 boys and their coach from a flooded Thai cave in July, sued Musk for defamation Monday in a federal court in Los Angeles. He’s seeking $75,000 in compensatory damages, unspecified punitive damages and an injunction ordering Musk to stop the unfounded insults.
“Elon Musk falsely accused Vern Unsworth of being guilty of heinous crimes,” Unsworth’s attorney L. Lin Wood said in a statement. “Musk’s influence and wealth cannot convert his lies into truth or protect him from accountability for his wrongdoing in a court of law.”
Before the soccer team’s rescue, Musk built a mini-submarine crafted out of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket part that he said could be used to ferry everyone out of the cave. Unsworth dismissed the offer as a PR stunt and said Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.”
Musk’s gadget had “absolutely no chance of working,” Unsworth told CNN, adding that Musk had “no conception of what the cave passage was like.”
That’s when Musk baselessly called Unsworth a “pedo guy.”
“We will make one of the mini-sub/pod going all the way to Cave 5 no problemo,” Musk tweeted. “Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.”
Musk deleted the tweet after a storm of criticism on social media and later apologized to Unsworth, saying he had insulted him in anger. Investors had also called on Musk to apologize, with one saying his troubling behavior was “fueling an unhelpful perception” of his business leadership. Tesla shares plunged after publicity about Musk’s name-calling.
But Musk again goaded the diver last month by tweeting that he found it “strange” that Unsworth hadn’t yet sued him.
That tweet “conveyed to the average reader that Mr. Unsworth’s failure to sue him was evidence that Mr. Unsworth is, in fact, a pedophile and guilty of the most heinous crimes,” reads Unsworth’s suit.
When BuzzFeed contacted Musk about the latest tweet early this month, Musk responded in an email: “I suggest that you call people you know in Thailand, find out what’s actually going on and stop defending child rapists, you fucking asshole.” Musk added: “I fucking hope he sues me.”
Musk’s off-the-wall insults are part of a string of provocative behavior roiling his businesses.
Early this month, he smoked a blunt on Joe Rogan’s podcast. In August, he apologized to analysts for bad behavior on a conference call, told The New York Times he had an “excruciating” year, and tweeted out of the blue that he was considering taking Tesla private (but hadn’t secured the funds to do so). That action has drawn scrutiny by the Securities and Exchange Commission.