Back in 2018, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, refused to offer an apology for calling “pedo guy” a diver who saved young Thai soccer players from a flooded cave because the tech billionaire was afraid a public apology could make him seem like a coward, a new book reveals.
Not to seem a coward
Musk called British diver Vernon Unsworth “pedo guy” after the latter mocked the former’s proposal to save the trapped Thai boys using a mini-submarine.
The billionaire refused to give an apology even as his aides begged him to, as Tesla’s stock dipped 3.5% amid the Twitter row that Musk had started, reveals the book entitled “Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century” by reporter Tim Higgins, with an excerpt from it published by Vanity Fair.
Besides calling Unsworth the by now famous “pedo guy” insult, Musk also challenged the British diver to sue him.
“I f***ing hope he sues me,” Musk told a reporter for BuzzFeed at the time, Ryan Mac, in an email, thinking it was off the record.
The British rescue diver, Vernon Unsworth, who ultimately helped save a dozen boys and their coach from the flooded cave in northern Thailand in 2018, caused Musk’s wrath by criticizing the latter’s declarations that he was capable of designing a mini-sub to rescue the soccer players.
As the Tesla CEO lashed out against “pedo guy” Unsworth on Twitter, the British diver took him to court for defamation in 2019.
During the trial, which Musk won eventually, he told the court that he didn’t literally call Unsworth “a pedophile” but was just “being insulting.”
‘Pedo guy and sex with a mini-sub’
In July 2018, at the height of the flooded Thai cave crisis, Musk even flew to the site of the cave in northern Thailand and left there his mini-sub so that the rescue workers could use it if they decide to do so.
As he posted his photos from there on Twitter, he said the mini-submarine was made of rocket parts and was named after the boys’ soccer team, “Wild Boar.”
However, Musk’s submarine wasn’t needed as a rescue attempt had already been launched.
The governor of the Thai region in question said it wasn’t practical to be used in the rescue.
As the special submarine was never put to action, Unsworth, the British rescue diver, declared it to be “nothing more than” what he described as a “PR stunt”, and went further by telling Musk to stick the sub “where it hurts.”
That was what unleashed the Tesla CEO’s outrage, expressed in a tweetstorm where the famous “pedo guy” comment appeared.
The scandal surrounding the insult wiped a whopping $2 billion off Tesla’s stock market valuation.
However, Musk rejected the public and private calls to apologize telling his aides that he would appear “like a coward” if he did that.
“We need to stop panicking,” he told his aides, according to the new book.
Buzzfeed and the $190 million lawsuit
Musk eventually deleted the “pedo guy” tweet on July 15, 2018, and tweeted an apology but later doubled down on his comment.
In his apology, he stated that the fault was his “alone”, even though he did get riled up after Unsworth “suggested” that he should “engage in a sexual act” with his mini-sub.
Then in August 2018, Musk went on a new Twitter tirade against Unsworth and asked why he hadn’t sued him, especially after the diver was offered free legal services.
In his email to Buzzfeed reporter Ryan Mac at the time, which Musk thought was off the record, he told Mac to “stop defending child rapists” and elaborated why he thought that Unsworth was a pedophile who had a 12-year-old child bride.
It turned out later, however, that Unsworth had a 40-year-old Thai girlfriend.
Musk won the $190 million defamation lawsuit that Unsworth filed subsequently against him
In 2019, Unsworth filed a $190million defamation lawsuit against Musk.
A jury found Musk was not liable for defamation.
Musk and Unsworth are seen in the above court sketches during their testimony in Los Angeles federal court in December 2019.
The court ruling in Musk’s favor because he did make it clear to Buzzfeed that the media couldn’t publish his comments, even though it did on September 4, 2018, and that he had no responsibility for the media publishing them without verifying them.