Thai cave diver sues Tesla’s Elon Musk for defamation

Tesla CEO sued for defamation after calling British diver who helped rescue a Thai football team a pedophile on Twitter.

British caver Vernon Unsworth gets out of a pick up truck near the Tham Luang cave complex, where 12 boys and their soccer coach are trapped, in the northern province of Chiang Rai
British caver Vernon Unsworth (C) was part of the dramatic rescue in Chiang Rai [Panu Wongcha-um/Reuters]

A British diver who helped rescue a youth football team trapped in a cave in northern Thailand earlier this year has sued Elon Musk, alleging that the Tesla CEO falsely accused him of being a pedophile and child rapist.

Vernon Unsworth, who lives north of London, contended that Musk made the false allegation on Twitter and then repeated multiple other falsehoods after the dramatic rescue of a dozen boys and their coach in July.

The lawsuit filed in the Los Angeles federal court on Monday seeks more than $75,000 in damages and a court order stopping Musk from making further allegations.

Musk called Unsworth a “pedo” in a tweet to his 22.5 million followers after Unsworth criticised Musk in a July 13 television interview with CNN about the rescue.

Musk and engineers from his rocket company, SpaceX, built a small submarine and shipped it to Thailand to help with the rescue.

The device was not used and in the interview, Unsworth called it a “PR stunt” and said it wouldn’t have worked to free the boys who were trapped in the flooded cave.

He also said Musk “can stick his submarine somewhere where it hurts.”

‘Sorry pedo guy’

The lawsuit alleges that Musk, apparently angered by Unsworth’s remarks, began a campaign to destroy his reputation “by publishing false and heinous accusations of criminality against him to the public.”

“Elon Musk falsely accused Vernon Unsworth of being guilty of heinous crimes,” L Lin Wood, a lawyer for Unsworth, said in a statement. “Musk’s influence and wealth cannot convert his lies into truth or protect him from accountability.”

In a series of tweets on July 15, Musk, who personally delivered the submarine to the cave, wrote that he never saw Unsworth and challenged him to show a video of the final rescue.

“Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it,” Musk tweeted. Later on Twitter, Musk wrote “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.”

Later Musk deleted the tweets and apologised after being criticised by shareholders, the lawsuit alleged, stating in a tweet that his words were “spoken in anger” and that the submarine was built out of kindness according to specifications from the dive team leader.

But on August 28, Musk tweeted about Unsworth once again, writing: “You don’t think it’s strange he hasn’t sued me? He was offered free legal services.”

The lawsuit states that with the tweet, Musk sought to tell the average reader that Unsworth’s failure to sue at the time was evidence that Unsworth is a pedophile.

Two days after the August 28 tweet, Musk emailed a BuzzFeed News reporter, suggesting that the reporter investigate Unsworth and “stop defending child rapists,” according to the lawsuit. 

“He’s an old, single white guy from England who’s been travelling or living in Thailand for 30 to 40 years,” Musk wrote, adding that Unsworth moved in Thailand “for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time,” the court documents showed.

The billionaire’s behaviour has raised concerns about his corporate leadership, and several Wall Street analysts and some investors have urged Tesla to appoint a strong second-in-command. 

The lawsuit comes as Musk’s SpaceX unveiled its first private passenger to go on a solo rocket trip around the moon.

Japanese billionaire and online fashion tycoon Yusaka Maezawa, who is 42 years old, is due to fly to the moon as early as 2023 on a rocket that is still being developed by the company. 

Source: News Agencies