Vernon Unsworth, the British cave diver suing Tesla founder Elon Musk for calling him a “pedo guy” on Twitter, refused to apologise to the billionaire businessman and said his criticism of Musk was not a personal attack.
In the third day of the defamation trial, Unsworth said he would not say sorry for an interview in which he said Musk’s offer of a mini-submarine to help rescue a boys’ football team from a cave in Thailand was a “PR stunt” and that Musk should “stick his submarine where it hurts”.
“My insult was to the tube and not to Musk personally,” Unsworth said while being cross-examined by Bill Price, one of Musk’s lawyers. “I’m not sure how I need to apologise. It was my opinion at the time and I stand by that opinion.”
Following Unsworth’s comments, Musk sent the tweets that are at the centre of the defamation case.
Musk’s first tweet questioned Unsworth’s role in the rescue, while the second said, “Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.” The third tweet, in response to a follower who asked Musk about the second tweet, said “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.”
Unsworth previously described the “pedo guy” tweet as “life sentence without parole”, saying the experience left him feeling “raw, humiliated, ashamed and dirtied”.
In Musk’s testimony to the court in Los Angeles he said the “pedo guy” comment was “off the cuff” and was not intended to be taken literally.
He denied he had accused the diver of paedophilia, saying “It’s an insult, like saying mother-effer doesn’t actually mean someone having sex with their mother”.
US district judge Stephen Wilson has said the case hinges on whether a reasonable person would take Musk’s tweets to mean that he was calling Unsworth a paedophile.
To win the defamation case, Unsworth needs to show that Musk was negligent in publishing a falsehood that clearly identified him and caused him harm.
Jurors could begin deliberating by Friday after testimony from other witnesses and closing arguments.