Tesla boss insists his “pedo guy” comments were meant as an off-the-cuff insult, and not to be taken seriously, Unsworth disagrees
Telsa CEO Elon Mush concluded his testimony in a Los Angeles courtroom to defend himself against a defamation lawsuit filed by British cave diver Vernon Unsworth.
Earlier in the week Musk had apologised to Unsworth again, and insisted that that his “pedo guy” tweet had not been meant to be taken literally.
Musk remained composed in his second day on the stand, and insisted that his tweet was an “off-the-cuff” insult hurriedly written in anger and not meant to be taken seriously.
Musk took exception when one of the rescuers, British caver Unsworth ridiculed the mini-submarine that Musk had built and transported to the location, in an attempt to help free the trapped boys.
During a CNN interview Unsworth said the mini-submarine wasn’t used in the rescue, and that it was a “PR stunt” and that Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.”
Musk fired back and labelled the British cave rescuer as a “pedo guy” in a Tweet that has since been taken down.
Whilst on the stand, Musk acknowledged that his net worth, mostly from stock holdings in those two companies, is about $20 billion.
“People think I have a lot of cash. I actually don’t,” he is quoted by Reuters as saying. “I have stock in SpaceX and Tesla, and debt against that.”
Musk said that he took to Twitter two days after the CNN interview because he found Unsworth’s comments about him to be “extremely rude and contemptuous.”
“This was very much an off-the-cuff response,” Musk reportedly said.
Asked whether he was accusing Unsworth of the crime of pedophilia by referring to him as “pedo guy” in a series of tweets, Musk reportedly said, “absolutely not.”
“It’s an insult, like saying mother-effer doesn’t actually mean someone having sex with their mother,” he said.
Musk insisted on Tuesday that he had not even realised at the time that Unsworth was part of the rescue.
But the case took a twist when it emerged that Musk, and his private office manager, Jared Birchall, admitted that they had attempted to discredit Unsworth when they realised a lawsuit was being filed.
According to Reuters, Musk acknowledged under oath on Tuesday that he had been duped out of $52,000 by a man named James Howard, posing as a private detective and offering to dig up dirt about Unsworth.
Howard ultimately proved to be a con artist, and nothing he gathered from his supposed investigation could be corroborated or acted on, leading to his dismissal, Musk testified.
Before then, however, Musk had been ready to expose unsavory but truthful information he believed Howard may have uncovered about Unsworth, according to Birchall’s testimony and email messages entered as evidence.
Meanwhile Unsworth has said that he had been left feeling “humiliated, ashamed” and “dirtied” after Musk;s tweet, and that his comments were “very hurtful”.
According to the BBC, which cited court reporters, Unsworth appeared on the verge of tears during his testimony, and said he felt Mr Musk had branded him a paedophile.
“It feels very raw. I feel humiliated. Ashamed. Dirtied,” he reportedly told the court. “Effectively, from day one, I was given a life sentence without parole. It hurts to talk about it.”
He described the tweet as “very hurtful” and said the experience had left him feeling “very vulnerable” and “very isolated”.
Unsworth is 64 and splits his time between the UK and Thailand. He helped recruit experienced cave divers who were instrumental in freeing the boys safely.
“I find it disgusting,” Unsworth reportedly said about Musk’s “pedo” comment. “I find it very hard to even read the word, never mind talk about.”
Musk has been in trouble before over his use of Twitter.
In August 2018 for example, he tweeted out of the blue, that he was considering taking Tesla private and that he had secured funding to do so.
Those tweets brought Musk to the attention of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and it sued Tesla and sought to ban Musk from acting as an officer or director of a publicly traded company.
In April 2019 the SEC reached a settlement of Musk’s use of Twitter.
Musk agreed to submit public statements about the company’s finances to vetting by its legal counsel before publishing them.
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