Unsworth v. Musk
Posture of the Case:
In September 2018, a group of young football players became trapped in a Thai underground cave. International attention was given to the situation that became more dire each day the boys were trapped. British cave diver Vernon Unsworth joined the rescue operation and worked with other skilled divers to free the boys after two weeks. Tech billionaire Elon Musk and SpaceX engineers built a small submarine and shipped it to Thailand to help with the cave rescue. The device was not used and critics, including Unsworth, called it a PR stunt. After the rescue team rebuffed Musk’s submarine, Musk accused Unsworth of being a pedophile. Unsworth has filed a defamation suit against Musk in Los Angeles federal court for $75,000.
Background of the Case:
After the successful rescue of the footballers in Thailand, Unsworth says Musk “embarked on a PR campaign to destroy” his reputation after becoming angry at an interview he gave to the US television network, CNN.
Unsworth had told the broadcaster that Musk’s device “had absolutely no chance of working,” that Musk “had no conception of what the cave passage was like” and that Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.”
Vernon Unsworth alleges that Musk falsely accused him on Twitter of being a pedophile and seeks at least $75,000 in damages and a court order preventing Musk from making further allegations. The diver accuses Musk of “publishing false and heinous accusations of criminality against him to the public” when Musk posted a series of tweets directed at Unsworth on 15 July, calling his claims about the submarine into question and adding: “Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.” At that time, Musk had approximately 22.5 million Twitter followers. Musk later deleted the Twitter posts and issued an apology stating that he was “just kidding.”
The diver further alleges that Musk later sent emails to the media site Buzzfeed accusing Unsworth of moving to Thailand to be with a child bride who was about 12 years old and claiming that Unsworth had been removed from the rescue team over allegations of being a pedophile. Musk also responded to Buzzfeed’s request for comment by saying, “I suggest that you call people you know in Thailand, find out what’s actually going on and stop defending child rapists, you f—— a——.” Musk said the email was off the record, but BuzzFeed claimed the publication never agreed to that stipulation.
As attorneys for Defendant Musk, argue that Musk did not defame Unsworth in his Twitter posts and his emails to Buzzfeed.