LOS ANGELES (CN) – A British diver involved with the rescue of a Thai youth soccer team this summer sued Elon Musk on a defamation claim Monday over the Tesla Motors CEO’s accusations on social media that the diver is a pedophile.
In a series of messages on Twitter, Musk called diver Vernon Unsworth a “pedo” or pedophile shortly after 12 boys and their coach were rescued from a cave in Thailand this past July with the help of foreign rescuers and the Thai navy SEAL team.
Unsworth says he was scheduled to go into the cave system before it was discovered the boys were stranded in the watery depths of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave. According to his 23-page defamation suit against Musk, Unsworth was one of the first foreign rescuers to arrive at the cave system.
From June 24 through July 8, Unsworth was involved in the pre-rescue operations, and from July 8 through July 10 helped rescue the boys with over “a hundred divers and countless other individuals who were able to design and implement pumps to extricate what is reported to have been billions of liters of water” from the cave, Unsworth says in his lawsuit.
He claims Musk offered to build a mini-submarine or the “Tube,” which Musk said could transport the victims out of the cave system. While the “Tube” was delivered by Musk to the rescue site on July 9, most of the boys had already been rescued.
In an interview with CNN on July 13, Unsworth called Musk’s involvement a “PR stunt” and said the tube “had absolutely no chance of working.” Furthermore, Unsworth said, Musk “had no conception of what the cave passage was like” and “[Musk] can stick his submarine where it hurts,” according to the complaint.
Not too pleased with Unsworth’s comments, Musk took to Twitter on July 15 to vent about the British diver.
“Never saw this British expat guy who lives in Thailand (sus) at any point when we were in the caves. Only people in sight were the Thai navy/army guys, who were great.
“Thai navy seals escorted us in – total opposite of wanting us to leave,” Musk wrote, with “(sus)” in the meaning “likely suspect.”
In another tweet Musk told his 22 million followers he would make a video of his mini-sub traveling through the cave system. He added: “Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.”
On July 17, Musk took to Twitter to apologize to Unsworth, but appeared to taunt the man on Aug. 29 after a follower brought up the feud with Unsworth and Musk tweeted: “You don’t think it’s strange he hasn’t sued me?”
The following day, Musk responded to a BuzzFeed News article about comments made against Unsworth, and in an email to the reporter Musk wrote, “He’s an old, single white guy from England who’s been traveling or living in Thailand for 30 to 40 years, mostly Pattaya Beach, until moving to Chiang Rai for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time.”
In a follow-up email to the BuzzFeed News reporter, Musk wrote that Unsworth lied about his cave experience.
But in his lawsuit, Unsworth lays out his cave-diving experience and flatly denies Musk’s accusations.
“Mr. Unsworth has never engaged in an act of pedophilia. Mr. Unsworth is not a child rapist,” he says in his complaint.
A copy of the BuzzFeed News articles, screenshots of Musk’s tweets and a demand letter from Unsworth are all attached to the complaint.
Unsworth seeks more than $75,000 in damages and a court order to stop further attacks by Musk.
He is represented by Christopher Chatham from the Chatham Law Group in Los Angeles.
An email to Tesla Motors seeking comment was not immediately answered.