British diver Vernon Unsworth has sued Elon Musk after the SpaceX and Tesla CEO accused him of being a paedophile in a now-deleted tweet from July.
AP News reports lawyers acting on behalf of Unsworth filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court on Monday, claiming Musk not only made the false claim in a public forum but also “intentionally sought to strike out publicly against Mr. Unsworth by damaging his reputation with a salacious and spurious accusation”.
According to the lawsuit, the British national is seeking over US$75,000 in damages and wants a court order to stop the SpaceX and Tesla CEO from making any further allegations against him.
Unsworth, who assisted in the widely publicised rescue of a youth soccer team and their coach from the flooded Tham Luong cave network in Thailand, originally gained media attention after slamming Musk’s idea to build a mini-submarine to help rescue the soccer team from the flooded cave.
Unsworth labelled the concept as nothing more than a “PR stunt” and said Musk “can stick his submarine somewhere where it hurts”.
Musk responded angrily via Twitter, telling his 22.5 million followers that he had never seen Unsworth during his visit to Thailand.
In one of the several tweets directed at Unsworth, Musk challenged him to share footage of the final rescue, adding: “Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.”
He later responded to a reply from a shocked follower with the words, “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.”
Musk eventually deleted and apologised for the tweets after drawing heavy criticism, only to dig a deeper hole for himself with a tweet on August 9: “You don’t think it’s strange he hasn’t sued me? He was offered free legal services. And you call yourself @yoda.”
If it wasn’t bad enough that Musk was once again implying Unsworth is a paedophile, L. Lin Wood, a lawyer acting on behalf of Unsworth, humiliated the eccentric billionaire in a subsequent tweet, suggesting Musk should check his mail before attaching a screenshot of a letter declaring his client’s intention to take legal action.
But Musk just kept going, tripling down on his comments in a series of expletive-ridden emails sent to Buzzfeed News:
“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.
“He’s an old, single white guy from England who’s been traveling to or living in Thailand for 30 to 40 years, mostly Pattaya Beach, until moving to Chiang Rai for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time.
“There’s only one reason people go to Pattaya Beach. It isn’t where you go for caves, but it is where you’d go for something else. Chiang Rai is renowned for child sex-trafficking.”
Regarding reports he was facing legal action from Unsworth, Musk added, “I fucking hope he sues me.”
These comments are mentioned in Unsworth’s lawsuit, which also highlights Musk’s claim that he was never part of the cave dive team involved in the rescue.
“Mr. Unsworth is not a pedophile. Mr. Unsworth has never engaged in an act of pedophilia. Mr. Unsworth is not a child rapist,” the lawsuit states.
L. Lin Wood said of Musk’s correspondence with Buzzfeed News: “After deleting the initial accusation and tweeting an apology, Mr Musk has continued to republish his false and unsupportable accusation.”
“His conduct demonstrates that his recklessness is intentional and designed to harm Mr Unsworth.”