A Los Angeles judge declared that billionaire Elon Musk must defend himself in court for a 2018 tweet, in which he insulted a diver working to save Thai schoolboys trapped in an underwater cave, the BBC reports. The trial date is set for October 22.
Vern Unsworth, the diver in question who helped rescue the 12 boys who were trapped in Thailand’s Tham Luang caves, is suing Musk over a tweet in which the Tesla CEO referred to him as a “pedo guy.” The altercation on Twitter was brought about during Musk’s attempt to help the rescue effort by sending a small submarine to Thailand for use in rescue efforts.
Unsworth, in an appearance on CNN at the time, was generally dismissive of Musk’s offer of the submarine, characterizing it as nothing more than a publicity stunt that wasn’t a genuine or practical effort to help the perilous predicament in the caves.
Musk, in since-deleted tweets, responded by explaining how the submarine could be of use, before surprising many by referring to Unsworth as a pedophile. Musk would later reach out to Buzzfeed, recommending that its reporters look further into Unsworth, and suggesting that he shouldn’t have been involved in the cave rescue.
Unsworth’s suit seeks a court order preventing Musk from making further disparaging comments, in addition to at least $75,000 in compensation plus punitive damages.
In response, Musk’s lawyers have sought for the case to be dismissed, indicating that the remarks were “imaginative” or “over the top” insults made in the heat of the moment, arguing that they are protected by the First Amendment. The judge has pushed back on this defense, saying that there were no heated or volatile circumstances that would explain such behavior.
Elon Musk must defend himself in court after calling a diver who helped save Thai schoolboys trapped in a cave a paedophile, a Los Angeles judge says— All the news (@Allthenews11) May 12, 2019
Despite the ongoing controversy on the matter, Musk took to Twitter to publicly express his regret. In response to an article about the events, Musk replied with his recounting of the back-and-forth and apologized for his words.
“As this well-written article suggests, my words were spoken in anger after Mr. Unsworth said several untruths & suggested I engage in a sexual act with the mini-sub, which had been built as an act of kindness & according to specifications from the dive team leader,” Musk wrote on Twitter. “Nonetheless, his actions against me do not justify my actions against him, and for that I apologize to Mr. Unsworth and to the companies I represent as leader. The fault is mine and mine alone.”