Elon Musk can’t be sued for calling a cave diver “pedo guy” because he was just expressing his opinion, Musk’s lawyers argued in a court filing Monday.
Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur behind companies like Tesla and SpaceX, is currently embroiled in legal battle against Vernon Unsworth, a diver involved in the rescue of a Thai soccer team from a cave last summer. In a CNN interview shortly after the rescues, Unsworth criticized Musk’s plans to build a miniature submarine for the rescues. On Twitter, Musk slammed Unsworth as “pedo guy,” without evidence. Musk later sent an email to BuzzFeed claiming Unsworth had a “child bride,” again without evidence.
Unsworth responded with a $75,000 defamation lawsuit, which is expected to go to trial in federal court in October. Musk’s lawyers will argue that the “pedo guy” tweets were an expression of free speech, their Monday filing suggests.
Musk’s lawyers claim Unsworth’s suit was empty because “all or parts of the statements-at-issue were true or substantially true.” They did not elaborate.
In the filing, Musk’s lawyers allege that Unsworth “participated by sharing his knowledge of the caves,” but did not actually join the dive that freed the team. For this reason, they accuse Unsworth of wanting more “acclaim and media spotlight” than he deserved.
The filing goes on to accuse Unsworth of starting the feud.
“None of the events giving rise to this lawsuit would have happened but for what Mr. Unsworth then did. During a July 13, 2018 interview on CNN, Mr. Unsworth condemned the efforts of Mr. Musk and his engineers as a mere ‘PR stunt,’” the filing reads. “Before Mr. Musk had said anything about Unsworth—or even knew who he was—Mr. Unsworth capped off his attacks on Mr. Musk with the terse suggestion that Mr. Musk take the miniature rescue submarine that he and his engineers had invented and built for the rescue and ‘stick it where it hurts.’”
Unsworth’s comments on CNN came after a reporter asked him about Musk’s submarine plan.
“We just talked about this before, what your thoughts on Elon Musk’s idea was?” the reporter prompted Unsworth in the July video.
“He can stick his submarine where it hurts,” Unsworth replied. “It just had absolutely no chance of working.”
The lawyers go on to claim Unsworth suffered no damages from the incident.
“The formerly unknown Mr. Unsworth remains the utterly undamaged Mr. Unsworth,” they wrote.
Google search recommendations for Unsworth’s names have certainly changed since the beginning of the debacle. A person searching for “Vernon Unsworth CNN” will receive a Google recommendation for “Vernon Unsworth child bride” before they can finish typing “CNN.”