LOS ANGELES (CN) – British cave expert Vernon Unsworth told jurors Thursday he would not apologize to billionaire Elon Musk for calling a mini-sub SpaceX engineers built for a rescue operation a publicity stunt last summer, a comment that spurred Musk to call Unsworth “pedo guy” in a tweet and Unsworth’s subsequent defamation lawsuit.
Musk’s attorney William Price asked Unsworth if he would still characterize Musk’s actions as a PR stunt.
“My opinion as I sit here, it was a PR stunt,” said Unsworth.
Unsworth’s comment was made during a CNN interview in July 2018 after 12 boys and their soccer coach were rescued from a cave complex in Thailand. A former Thai Navy diver had died during the rescue operation and monsoon rains could have further flooded the caves, and Musk was in contact with a lead rescue diver before he brought two mini-sub/pods to the rescue site that were designed to carry one child at a time out of the caves with the guidance of a diver.
After the CNN interview, Musk called Unsworth a “pedo guy” on Twitter – which Unsworth said has marred his life ever since.
While under cross-examination Thursday, Unsworth acknowledged he did not know that Musk and his team were coordinating with the lead diver.
Price asked if Unsworth would apologize to Musk if he knew about the effort put into building the mini-sub/pods to rescue the children.
“My insult was to the tube and not Mr. Musk personally,” said Unsworth.
Price asked again if he would apologize or if Unsworth thought Musk was so “coldhearted” that he would orchestrate a PR stunt while the children’s lives were in danger.
“I never said he was coldhearted.” Unsworth said, “I’m not sure how I need to apologize. That was my opinion at the time and I stand by it.”
Price also noted that despite being labeled a “pedo guy” by Musk, Unsworth tried to broker a book deal and was represented by an agent.
Jurors were shown a group photo of Unsworth, several other rescue personnel and then-British Prime Minister Theresa May. Price asked if Unsworth was affected by Musk’s tweet or if he was called a pedophile at that event or at celebrations where he was honored by the Thai government or for the other medals he received with the other rescue personnel.
“Mr. Musk’s tweet never got in the way of you receiving any awards?” Price asked.
“I’m not aware of what goes on in the background… and who decides on those decisions,” said Unsworth.
Unsworth and two other members of the rescue team went on to receive the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in December 2018.
Attorneys are expected to make their closing arguments Friday and the jury will be given the case after hearing their instructions.