Elon Musk is expected to testify today at a defamation case brought against him for calling a British cave diver a “pedo guy”.
The Los Angeles Federal Court case begins today and will put Musk and his accuser Vernon Unsworth face-to-face for the first time.
Unsworth was a member of the rescue team who saved a Thai boys football team trapped in a cave in June 2018.
He poured scorn on Musk’s attempt to bring a mini-submarine to the rescue mission, calling it a “PR stunt”.
Responding on Twitter, Musk said: “Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.”
Musk then doubled down on the comment, tweeting: “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.”
The billionaire Tesla founder subsequently deleted both comments and apologised after his company’s stock price fell by four per cent.
However, he then repeated the slur in an email to a reporter.
“Stop defending child rapists,” he wrote.
Unsworth is seeking punitive and monetary damages for the tweets, but not for the subsequent email.
However, presiding judge Stephen Wilson said the email could be used to reference Musk’s state of mind.
Musk said calling someone a “pedo guy” was a comment insult in South Africa, where he grew up, and didn’t think it would be taken as a comment about paedophilia.
“It is synonymous with ‘creepy old man’ and is used to insult a person’s appearance and demeanour, not accuse a person of paedophilia,” he said.
Speaking at pre-trial hearings, the billionaire’s lawyer Alexander Spiro said: “Evidence is going to be through Mr. Musk [testifying] that in fact Mr. Musk didn’t call him a paedophile.
“Mr. Musk deleted the tweet, apologised and moved on.”
Unsworth’s lawyer said Musk’s explanation is “offensive to the truth” and that he would provide evidence of damages at the trial by “talking about [Unsworth’s] worries, his anxieties, his concern by being branded a pedophile”.
Musk’s legal team also tried to argue Unsworth became a public figure as a part of the rescue of the Thai boys, meaning that it is more difficult to prove defamation and that “actual malice” needs to be shown.
This explanation was thrown out by judge Stephen Wilson.