While Elon Musk seems to have avoided accountability and serious repercussions relating to his “funding secured” fake buyout fiasco from last year, his feet may end up being held to the fire for a different social media outburst. As of now, it looks as though Musk will be heading to trial on October 22 as a result of his Tweet calling Thai cave diver Vern Unsworth a “pedo“. A judge rejected Elon Musk’s defense that he wasn’t making a real accusation, partly because of a follow up e-mail that Musk wrote to BuzzFeed.
“A reasonable fact-finder could easily conclude that [Elon Musk’s] statements … implied assertions of objective fact,” wrote district judge Stephen V. Wilson. Unsworth is seeking more than $75,000 in damages, on top of a court order prohibiting Musk from making any further disparaging comments. Because court orders have worked so well for the SEC so far in censuring Musk.
We reported last September that Unsworth, the British cave diver who helped rescue 12 children in Thailand and who was hailed a hero by everybody in the world except Elon Musk – who instead decided to label him “pedo guy” and then later a “child rapist” – had sued Musk for libel, assault and slander.
Unsworth and his attorneys filed the suit in the US district court for the Central District of California, according to BuzzFeed. The Tesla CEO’s tweets and emails to BuzzFeed were submitted as exhibits in the lawsuit.
The suit alleges that Musk sought to destroy his reputation after Unsworth made outspoken comments about how he believed Musk’s solution for the cave rescue was “just a PR stunt”. The suit says Musk went after Unsworth’s reputation “by publishing false and heinous accusations of criminality against him to the public.”
The lawsuit provides a history of the rescue according to Unsworth. It paints him as a “highly respected caver” with four decades of experience, including a handful of rescues in the United Kingdom. And the suit also reportedly explains that Unsworth’s first visit to Thailand was in 2011, before exploring the caves for the first time in May 2012.
The suit says he spent six years going over the cave system and that he was “the first foreign rescuer” to arrive on the scene after calls for help. It also claims he was one of the last to leave, which directly contradicts Musk’s statement that he was banned from the site.
It states that he has never visited the area of Pattaya Beach, a destination in Thailand known for sex tourism. His lawyer stated:
“Musk falsely states that Mr.Unsworth had visited Pattaya Beach or lived in Thailand for 30 to 40 years and falsely stated that he lived in Chiang Rai with a 12-year-old bride. While the Cave System at issue contains a shelf and air pocket nicknamed ‘Pattaya Beach,’ which is near where the stranded Boys were located, Mr. Unsworth has never visited Pattaya Beach in Thailand.”
Unsworth’s British lawyer, Mark Stephens, told AP: “Twibels (Twitter libels) show that falsehoods by the rich and powerful can circulate round the globe to their 22.5 million followers and to the media before the truth can pull its boots on. The truth has now got its boots on and Elon Musk is being brought to account for repeatedly attacking and taunting the good name of an ordinary spelunker: Vernon Unsworth who answered the call and (with others) put his life on the line to help rescue the 13 trapped in the caves in Thailand.”
Previously, Musk had quadrupled down on his comments that Unsworth was indeed a pedophile based solely on the fact that Unsworth had not sued him yet. That argument is obviously off the table for Musk now.
You can read the judge’s full order below:
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