Elon Musk Beats Defamation Lawsuit For Calling Thailand Rescue Cave Diver Vernon Unsworth ‘Pedo Guy’

A jury agreed with his claim that it was just 'heated rhetoric' and not an actual claim of him being a pedophile.

elon musk appears at his defamation trial
Apu Gomes / Getty Images

A jury agreed with his claim that it was just 'heated rhetoric' and not an actual claim of him being a pedophile.

Elon Musk was found not liable for defamation for calling a British rescue diver a “pedo guy,” CNBC News reports. The diver, Vernon Unsworth, had sued for $190 million.

For a few days in the summer of 2018, the world watched as rescuers raced to figure out a way to save the lives of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach, who were trapped in a cave due to flooded tunnels. The team, “The Wild Boars,” had gone exploring one day after practice, and early and unexpected monsoons flooded the team’s only way out.

The boys and their adult chaperone would spend a week in the total darkness of the cave with no contact with the outside world, and little food. Eventually, a rescue diver was able to reach them, and soon supplies were pouring in, and the lads were able to talk to their relatives outside.

However, rescuing the boys was turning out to be a task difficult beyond measure. None were strong swimmers, let alone scuba divers. What’s more, the narrow and treacherous passages the boys would have to navigate to get out were difficult for even the most experienced of divers, let alone adolescent boys who could barely swim.

rescuers where the thai boys were trapped in a cave
  Screen capture from NTB News report / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

As authorities were trying to come up with a plan, Musk offered up his own solution: a mini submarine, or escape pod, that could be used to transport the lads out of the cave.

“Hopefully useful. If not, perhaps it will be in a future situation,” he said.

The sub was not used, however. Instead, divers fitted the boys with scuba gear and then gave them anesthetic (so they wouldn’t panic) and pulled them out, one by one, over the course of several days.

As for Musk’s sub, experienced British cave diver Vernon Unsworth dismissed Musk, his sub, and Musk’s insertion of himself into the drama, saying that he could stick the sub, which he called “a PR stunt,” “where it hurts.”

Musk, in turn, called Unsworth “sus” (suspicious) and a “pedo guy.”

Unsworth sued for $190 million, claiming that Musk’s insults defamed him.

In court, Musk’s defense hinged on a couple of key points. First, his attorneys argued that “pedo guy” was nothing more than a hyperbolic, schoolyard insult that he and his peers used to describe a “creepy old guy.” What’s more, Musk’s defense noted that Unsworth wasn’t actually harmed by Musk’s statements, and pointed out that he (Unsworth) had been making money for appearances since the rescue.

A jury agreed, and declined to award Unsworth any damages. Musk, for his part, apologized to Unsworth and said that he didn’t believe that the British cave explorer was actually a pedophile.