SAN FRANCISCO – Tesla co-founder Elon Musk said on Tuesday at the beginning of his defamation trial at a California court that his calling a British caver “pedo guy” on Twitter was in response to an unprovoked insult.
Vernon Unsworth, who participated in the famous rescue efforts for a soccer team trapped in a cave in Thailand in 2018, filed a lawsuit against Musk, seeking at least $75,000 in damages and claiming that his name has been defamed by the billionaire.
The dispute between Unsworth and Musk dates back to July last year, when Unsworth was part of the complex cave rescue efforts of the Thai children and for which Musk offered a mini-submarine of his invention to assist.
Following the rescue, in an interview with CNN, Unsworth called Musk’s offer “just a PR stunt” which had “absolutely no chance of working” and added Musk should “stick his submarine where it hurts.”
The Tesla and Space-X billionaire responded angrily on Twitter, where he now has almost 30 million followers, calling Unsworth “pedo guy,” and in emails sent to the media, accusing him of not having been part of the rescue team.
Musk told the judge that Unsworth’s comments were an “unprovoked attack on what was a good-natured attempt to help the kids” and added that the comments were “wrong and insulting, and so I insulted him back.”
“I thought he was just some random creepy guy,” Musk said. “I thought at the time that he was unrelated to the rescue.”
The case continues.
On June 23, 2018, 12 Thai children between the ages of 11 and 16, and their 26-year-old coach entered a cave after soccer training when a flash storm flooded the exit.
The group was trapped for two weeks in the cave while a large rescue contingent was deployed and media from around the world gave daily coverage to the efforts to retrieve them.
The children and coach were rescued alive, but during the mission, a 38-year-old ex-Thai Navy SEAL died.
Musk has been involved in other recent controversies, including a Twitter post in which he said he was considering taking Tesla off the stock market, as well as when he appeared to be smoking marijuana during a podcast recording.