Elon Musk insisted that his “pedo guy” Twitter comment directed a British diver involved with the rescue of 12 boys from a cave in Thailand was “off the cuff” as he wrapped up two days of testimony at his defamation trial today.
The billionaire businessman apologised again to Vernon Unsworth, the diver who is seeking damages in the case, and said the insult was written in anger and was not intended to be taken literally.
Musk said he lashed out on Twitter after Unsworth called his offer of a mini-submersible to aid the rescue a PR stunt and said Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts”.
Musk said Unsworth comments were “extremely rude and contemptuous” adding that his insult “was very much an off-the-cuff response”, Reuters reported.
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”.
In another tweet, which Unsworth claimed defamed him, Musk said: “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true,” in response to a Twitter follower asking whether he was really suggesting that Unsworth was a paedophile.
On the witness stand on Wednesday, Musk downplayed that tweet, saying: “It’s obviously a low-stakes wager.”
The founder of electric carmaker Tesla and SpaceX, a rocket company, said his net worth, mostly from stock holdings in those companies, was around $20bn.
“Sometimes people think I have a lot of cash. I actually don’t,” he said.
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.