Eccentric billionaire Elon Musk and his attorneys filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit from a man Musk called a “pedo guy” following the dramatic rescue of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach trapped in a cave. In a filing made on Wednesday, Musk’s lawyers claim his insults aimed at British cave diver Vern Unsworth, who assisted in the rescue efforts, were “over-the-top,” not “serious” and were only made in retaliation for negative comments Unsworth made about Musk.
After the boys were rescued from the cave in the summer of 2018, Unsworth, in a CNN interview, called Musk’s attempts to assist the rescue efforts by providing a submarine and other equipment and personnel a “PR stunt” with “absolutely no chance of working” and suggested Musk “stick his submarine where it hurts.” Musk, angered by these comments, then went on a tirade to insult and demean the cave diver.
First, Musk tweeted, “We will make [a video] of the mini-sub/pod going all the way to Cave 5 no problemo. Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.” But now, in a recent filing to dismiss, Musk’s lawyers say the tweet was made of “over-top-insults not driven by first-hand knowledge” and was “non-actionable opinion” with no “factual basis,” since Musk had never met Unsworth. Musk’s defense asserts that because the remarks were made on Twitter, a platform they say is “infamous for invective and hyperbole,” that they should not be taken seriously.
However, Musk continued his tirade, emailing BuzzFeed, alleging that Unsworth had married a “child bride” who was “12 years old at the time” and accusing the British expat of moving to Thailand because it is known for “child sex-trafficking,” and not cave diving. He also said he “hopes” Unsworth files suit. BuzzFeed published the email.
To defend these insults, Musk’s lawyers say that Musk asked for those comments to be “off the record,” but BuzzFeed claims they “did not agree to that condition of the correspondence” and states it is common journalistic practice that both parties must agree that comments are off the record. Musk’s attorneys go on to say that the billionaire’s comments in no way could be construed as “objective fact,” instead likening the spat to a “schoolyard spat on social media.” Furthermore, they claim that any remarks made by Musk are protected by the First Amendment.
In a statement to BuzzFeed, Unsworth’s attorneys said they want to hold Musk responsible for his actions. “Pedophilia is too serious an issue to leave unchallenged. If Mr. Musk believes his wealth affords him protection from his lies and Twibels, he is sadly mistaken,” they wrote.
This is not the first time Musk has found himself in legal jeopardy because of his tweets. He also threatened to take Tesla private in a tweet this year, saying he had the funding to do so. Since Tesla is a publicly traded company, the comments prompted an investigation and charges by the SEC, which Musk settled in September, agreeing to pay $40 million in penalties.