Elon Musk and Twitter. Those words have become synonymous with drama as of late, and it does not seem as if the outspoken CEO of Tesla will be slowing down anytime soon. On Friday, a U.S. judge set a court date for a defamation lawsuit involving Musk and a British man named Vern Unsworth, whom Musk has repeatedly accused of being a pedophile via the social media platform. The infamous Musk pedo tweet has returned to the spotlight.
The Tham Luang Cave Rescue
It all started back in July of 2018 when a group of boys became trapped in the Tham Luang caves of Thailand. Vern Unsworth was instrumental in recruiting experienced cave divers who were willing to brave the rising waters and rescue the 12 boys and their coach. The rescue became international news. After much trial and error, as well as the death of one of the rescuer divers, all involved were freed after a harrowing 18-day entrapment.
So what did Elon Musk have to do with any of this?
The Tesla CEO contacted the Thai government about helping before ordering two of his engineers to design a “kid-sized” submarine that could assist with the rescue. After Tweeting about his progress and his eventual visit to the cave site, Musk personally delivered his submarine. But Thai authorities decided that the submarine simply was not practical and declined to use it.
While Musk was obviously trying to do a good thing, the whole situation also felt like a heavy-handed attempt at a publicity stunt. Vern Unsworth felt the same way.
The Elon Musk Pedo Tweet
During an interview with CNN after the rescue, Unsworth called Musk out on his PR stunt and ridiculed the submarine, stating that it “had absolutely no chance of working” because Musk “had no concept of what the cave passage was like”, and that “it wouldn’t have made the first 50 meters into the cave from the dive start point.” Ouch.
As you can imagine, Elon Musk did not take the criticism very well.
After repeatedly accusing Unsworth of being a pedophile in front of his 22.5 million Twitter followers, Musk eventually deleted the tweets and apologized. However, he attacked the man again in September after sending an inflammatory email to Buzzfeed with additional claims of pedophilia. “I suggest that you call people you know in Thailand, find out what’s actually going on and stop defending child rapists,” Musk wrote. “He’s an old, single white guy from England who’s been traveling to or living in Thailand for 30 to 40 years… until moving to Chiang Rai for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time.”
Investigations by Buzzfeed uncovered absolutely no evidence to support Musk’s claims.
Judicial Action Is Taken
It did not take long for Vern Unsworth to file a defamation lawsuit. Musk’s lawyers attempted to get the suit dismissed, stating that his words were merely insults spouted in the heat of the moment and therefore protected by the U.S. First Amendment. But the fact that he continued to attack Unsworth and sent those emails to Buzzfeed makes such an argument seem pretty weak at best. And the federal judge seemed to agree.
The trial is set to take place on October 22nd. Unsworth is seeking at least $75,000 in compensation plus punitive damages, and a court order preventing Musk from making any further derogatory comments.