Caver suing Elon Musk over 'pedo guy' tweet refuses to apologize

Los Angeles (AFP) –


A British caver said Thursday he saw no need to apologize to Tesla co-founder Elon Musk for dismissing as a PR stunt the entrepreneur's offer to help rescue soccer players trapped in a cave in Thailand.

"I'm not sure how I need to apologize," Vernon Unsworth told a jury in Los Angeles. "I had that opinion at the time and I still stand by that opinion."

Musk had lashed out at Unsworth in 2018 following his comments made in a television interview, and labeled the caver a "pedo guy" in a tweet.

He also accused Unsworth in emails of being a "child rapist."

Unsworth filed a defamation lawsuit against the tech billionaire following the tweet and is seeking unspecified damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress.

The much-publicized row between the two men erupted after Musk offered a mini submarine to help in the rescue of the 12 boys and their coach who were trapped for nine days in a flooded cave.

Unsworth at the time dismissed Musk's proposal as a PR stunt and said he could "stick his submarine where it hurts."

In court testimony, Musk said the "pedo guy" tweet was an off-the-cuff insult and did not mean he was accusing Unsworth of being a pedophile.

He apologized for his outburst on Twitter and again during his testimony in court.

He insisted during questioning that he was simply reacting to Unsworth's "unprovoked" comments and claimed that "pedo guy" was a term widely used in South Africa, where he grew up.

The trial, which began Tuesday and is expected to last through Friday, hinges on whether Musk's tweet could have been interpreted by a reasonable person as accusing Unsworth of pedophilia.

In emotional testimony on Wednesday, Unsworth, a financial consultant who lives in Britain and Thailand, said he felt "shamed" and "dirtied" by Musk's comment.

"Effectively from day one, I was given a life sentence without parole," he said.

But attorneys representing Musk on Thursday tried to dismiss Unsworth's claim that his reputation had been harmed, showing pictures of him in July 2018 with then-British premier Theresa May.