The Defamation lawsuit against Tesla CEO Elon Musk begins today in Los Angeles. The case is based on Musk’s social media posts calling British cave rescuer Vern Unsworth, who was instrumental in the rescue of a trapped Thai youth soccer team, a ‘Pedo Guy.’
Yahoo News reports that Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk is set to go to trial on Tuesday after he accused British cave rescuer Vernon Unsworth of being a pedophile. Unsworth played a major role in the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand in July 2018, during the incident Unsworth criticized Musk’s plan to use a miniature submarine to save the boys labeling it a publicity stunt. In response, Musk called him a “pedo guy” on Twitter.
Now, Unsworth claims that Musk should pay punitive and other damages for harming his reputation. The trial will be before U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson in Los Angeles and is scheduled to take place over five days. Musk is expected to testify in his own defense.
Musk boasts 29.8 million Twitter followers and his account has become a major source of publicity for his companies including Tesla, which prides itself on not spending money excessively on marketing campaigns. Now Musk’s Twitter habits have once again landed him in hot water, after a tweet in 2018 about taking Tesla private cost him and the company millions in SEC fines.
In an interview with CNN on July 13, 2018, three days after the rescue of the boys in the Thai cave was complete, Unsworth called Musk’s offer of a miniature submarine a “PR stunt” and stated that Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.” Two days later, Musk attacked Unsworth in a series of tweets calling him a “pedo guy.” Unsworth has denied the allegations.
In the defamation case, Unsworth must prove that Musk did not use reasonable care to determine if the claims made in his tweets were true and that members of the public understood them to mean that he was accusing Unsworth of being a pedophile. It was ruled last month that Unsworth’s sudden fame due to the rescue did not make him a “public figure” which meant that he did not need to demonstrate the higher standard of proof that Musk acted with “actual malice” when posting the tweets.
Musk’s lawyers have argued that the tweets were an opinion and not statements of fact, but it was later revealed that Musk hired a private investigator who was a convicted felon to investigate Unsworth who provided little evidence to back up Musk’s claims about the cave diver. Musk also alleged that Unsworth had a “child bride,” which was also proven false.
Musk also outright called Unsworth a “child rapist” in his emails to BuzzFeed journalist Ryan Mac, stating: “I fucking hope he sues me.” It appears that Musk’s wish has come true. Musk’s lawyers have further argued that Unsworth attempted to profit from his role in the rescue and purposefully provoked Musk’s response by suggesting on CNN that Musk did not care about the lives of the trapped boys and instead was simply taking part in the rescue as a PR stunt.
Unsworth’s lawyer, L. Lin Wood, has tweeted about the case stating that he’s interested to see how a jury reacts to Musk’s defense strategy:
When you ask to be sued & law & facts are dead against you & you have lost every motion to dismiss case after lawsuit filed, beat on the PR table & continue to insult Vernon Unsworth. Will be very interesting to see how a jury reacts to Elon Musk defense strategy.
— Lin Wood (@LLinWood) October 30, 2019
Breitbart News will continue to follow the lawsuit closely.