The Tesla CEO is being sued by Vernon Unsworth after making unsubstantiated claims on Twitter and in emails to BuzzFeed News.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on September 18, 2018

Unsworth had been involved with the successful rescue of 12 Thai teenagers from a flooded cave system in July.

Musk referred to Unsworth as a “pedo guy” and insinuated he was involved in child sex trafficking on Twitter. He also made similar claims in emails to BuzzFeed News, where he wrote that Unsworth was a “child rapist” and sex trafficker and had married a 12-year-old child bride.

Unsworth’s lawsuit seeks US$75,000 in compensation and an injunction preventing Musk from making further allegations. Unsworth is also seeking unspecified punitive damages “to punish (Musk) for his wrongdoing and deter him from repeating such heinous conduct”.

In a statement, Unsworth’s attorney L. Lin Wood said “Musk’s influence and wealth cannot convert his lies into truth or protect him from accountability for his wrongdoing in a court of law.”

Background to Musk accusing Unsworth of paedophilia

Unsworth and Musk originally clashed over the latter’s attempts to intervene in the Thai cave rescue. Musk flew to the cave system offered to give rescuers a Tesla mini-submarine which he claimed could safely bring the children out of the cave. At the time, there was concern the children could not be taught to dive in time to navigate their way out of the flooded system. In the end, the children were sedated and led out of the caves by expert rescue divers.

Unsworth was unenthused about Musk’s submarine and said it was “just a PR stunt” and “had absolutely no chance of working”. He advised Musk to “stick his submarine where it hurts”.

Musk responded by labelling the diver a paedophile on Twitter. After shareholders voiced their concern over Musk making the allegations, he deleted the relevant tweets and made an apology to Unsworth.

Yet Musk later circled back to his accusations in late August and reignited the row. “You don’t think it’s strange he hasn’t sued me?” he wrote on Twitter in reference to Unsworth. “He was offered free legal services.”

Unsworth’s lawsuit denies all allegations made by Musk

The lawsuit states that Unsworth was the first foreign rescuer to arrive at the cave system and was “among the last persons to leave” after the rescue was completed.

It also says that Musk had more than 22.5 million Twitter followers at all times when he made the allegations and that his unfounded claims had caused Unsworth significant stress.

L. Lin Wood had sent Musk a letter dated 6 August which outlined the claims and invited Musk and or his legal representatives to contact him to correct the public record.

Musk apparently did not respond to the letter but wrote “I hope he f***ing sues me” in an email to BuzzFeed.

Just last week, Musk and Tesla were sued by Tesla investors for misleading shareholders over tweets where Musk revealed he was considering taking the company private.

Meanwhile, another of Musk’s companies, SpaceX, announced that it will imminently name the first passenger who will be aboard its ‘Big Falcon Rocket’ on its first trip to the moon.

Header photo credit: OnInnovation