Elon Musk lawyer says ‘pedo guy’ insult was just ‘joke’ between ‘fighting men’

Lawyers for Elon Musk claim the Tesla owner was "joking" when he branded a British diver who saved a football team and their coach from a flooded cave as "pedo guy" in a tweet.

Billionaire Musk is currently on trial in Los Angeles for alleged defamation against hero rescuer Vernon Unsworth, with a jury of three men and five women set to consider whether the latter is entitled to damages over the offending message.

Mr Unsworth, a British ex-pat living in Thailand, became involved in the effort to save 12 boys and their football coach who were trapped in the flooded Tham Luang Nang Non-cave in July 2018.

After the rescue effort had attracted global attention, Mr Musk sent a team of engineers from his companies to Thailand, suggesting the use of a small submarine to free the group.

But Mr Unsworth, who in court documents claims that he had been exploring the intricate cave system for six years, rubbished Musk's offer after the rescue had been completed, saying it would never have worked.

Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts,” Unsworth told CNN in an interview on July 13, in a withering assessment of Musk's plan that belittled the offer as a "PR stunt".

Two days following the interview, Musk erupted in a series of angry tweets, branding the driver a "pedo guy", comments that have resulted in the current legal case.

Unsworth then sued Musk in September 2018, two months after playing a leading role in the rescue of the 12 boys and their soccer coach from the flooded Tham Luang Nang Non cave.

On Tuesday Musk's defence argued that the billionaire was joking when he made the comments, with his legal team seeking to play down the seriousness of the remarks.

In his opening statement, Mr. Musk’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, characterized “pedo guy” as a generic insult and an expression from Musk’s youth in South Africa.

“These are joking talking tweets in a fight between men,” Mr Spiro added. “It was a joking, deleted, apologized for, responsive tweet. A JDART.”

During proceedings on Tuesday, the court also heard Musk claim that he thought Unsworth was just "some random creepy guy" when he called him a "pedo".

Musk was called to testify by the plaintiff's lawyers after opening statements were read.

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South Africa-born Musk investor said he was merely responding in kind to Unsworth's remarks, a video of which Musk said he watched on Twitter.

Those comments were "an unprovoked attack on what was a good-natured attempt to help the kids," he said.

"It was wrong and insulting, and so I insulted him back."

"I thought he (Unsworth) was just some random creepy guy,"

Musk added. "I thought at the time that he was unrelated to the rescue."

Mr Musk repeated the defence he first used in court papers lodged in September, insisting the phrase "pedo guy" was commonly used in his native South Africa and meant "creepy old guy", rather than being an allegation of paedophilia.

The case continues.

  • Elon Musk
  • Courts
  • Twitter

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