In a series of tweets in July, Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk referred to a cave diver involved in the rescue of a Thai football team as a “paedo guy.” Now Vernon Unsworth, the diver in question, has filed a lawsuit against Musk in the US state of California’s Central District Court alleging defamation.
Unsworth was publicly critical of Musk’s attempts to involve himself in the rescue using a purpose-built miniature submarine, which Unsworth described as having “absolutely no chance of working.” This led to unfounded speculation by Musk that Unsworth—a British ex-pat living in Thailand who was instrumental in the rescue—was a paedophile. (Unsworth’s girlfriend is 40 years old.)
Backlash led Musk to (sort of) apologise, but it was a topic he couldn’t resist weighing in on again in late August, asking former tech reporter Drew Olanoff, “You don’t think it’s strange [Unsworth] hasn’t sued me?”
This suit caps off a rough couple of months for Musk. Dave Morton, Sarah O’Brien, and Gaby Toledano who respectively filled the roles of chief accounting officer, VP of communications, and HR chief, respectively, all recently exited Tesla—a company that remains the subject of US Securities and Exchange Commission inquiries and shareholder suits after another Musk tweetstorm that suggested he had acquired the necessary funding to take the company private.
We’re reached out to Musk for comment.