Source: The Guardian
Tesla CEO’s lawyers said ‘pedo guy’ is a common insult used when Musk was a child in South Africa and not meant to ‘accuse a person’
Elon Musk is continuing to try to wriggle his way out of a defamation lawsuit, claiming in a court filing on Monday that a tweet labeling a British diver “pedo guy” was not meant to actually accuse him of pedophilia.
The Tesla CEO is being sued over comments made in 2018 about Vernon Unsworth, a diver who helped rescue a team of young soccer players stuck in an underwater cave.
At the time Unsworth had criticized Musk’s plans to rescue the soccer players using a mini submarine, calling it a “stunt” and telling him to “stick his submarine where it hurts”. Musk responded with a series of erratic tweets calling Unsworth a “pedo guy”. He later called him a “child rapist” in emails to a BuzzFeed reporter.
Musk’s lawyers have argued these statements were simply insults, not accusations. They reiterated that on Monday, saying “pedo guy” was a common insult used when Musk was a child in South Africa and is not meant to “accuse a person of acts of pedophilia”.
“There is no evidence that Mr Musk intended or believed that his July 15 tweets, that Mr Unsworth was ‘sus’ or ‘pedo guy’, would be interpreted as fact,” the filing said. “To the contrary, the evidence is that Mr Musk believed and intended his statements to be read as what they were: bare insults.”
This defense comes despite follow-up tweets from Musk, which said “bet you a signed dollar it’s true”, implying he indeed believed Unsworth was a pedophile. Lawyers for Musk said said in Monday’s court filing that while his initial tweets were intended as a joke, he continued to call Unsworth a “pedo guy” in subsequent tweets because of “disturbing information” allegedly uncovered in a private investigation funded by Musk himself.
“The investigator reported that Mr Unsworth was a fixture in Pattaya Beach, Thailand – a locale notorious for prostitution and child trafficking, that he had a taste for young Thai girls, that he whoremongered his way through the go-go bars of Thailand, that his only friends were his ‘sexpat’ peers, and that he married his Thai wife when she was a teenager, after starting a relationship when she was a young girl,” the response from Musk’s lawyers reads.
Unsworth, who shares a home in Thailand with his 40-year-old partner, has denied these allegations. Lawyers for Musk and Unsworth did not immediately respond to request for comment.
In another scandal surrounding the suit, Musk’s lawyers are attempting to drag a BuzzFeed News reporter into the proceedings. Musk first brought up the pedophilia allegations in what he believed to be an “off-the-record” email sent to Ryan Mac, a BuzzFeed News reporter, in August 2018. Though Musk claimed the email was off the record, Mac – who never agreed to such a stipulation – published it in full.
Now Musk’s lawyers are attempting to force the reporter to testify in the lawsuit, and BuzzFeed is pushing back in a filing made on Friday, saying there is no legal reason for it.
“It is clear from Musk’s prior conduct that he would put Mac through the ordeal of a hostile deposition for no reason other than to retaliate against Mac for his critical reporting,” the filing said. “The deposition subpoenas must be quashed to avoid this oppressive outcome.”
It has not yet been decided if BuzzFeed will testify in the case as Musk continues to challenge the defamation claim. The trial is scheduled for 2 December 2019.