Elon Musk has apologized for saying that a British cave diver who was hailed as a hero for his role in freeing the trapped Thai teen football team was a “pedo guy.”
Musk, the billionaire Tesla and SpaceX boss, issued the apology to Vernon Unsworth on Twitter on Wednesday morning, after a spat between the two men led investors to question Musk’s leadership fitness.
The Quora article praised by Musk in his tweets described the town of Chiang Rai, where Unsworth lives, as a “known hot spot for sex trafficking and child prostitution,” raising questions about how sorry he really was.
The row between Unsworth and Musk developed after Musk delivered a mini-submarine to assist in the rescue. Unsworth rubbished the invention, saying it could never have got around the twists and turns of the cave complex, but Musk produced documentation showing he had been urged to continue with the project by local civic leaders.
Unsworth then dismissed the “kid-size submarine” built by Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies as a “PR stunt” in an interview with CNN.
Musk defended his sub, saying he would produce a video of the device reaching the inner cave, and then bewilderingly issued his unprovoked slander on Unsworth as a “pedo.”
Musk’s apology comes after increasing expressions of concern among investors in his companies.
Gene Munster, a noted activist venture-capital boss, wrote an open letter to Musk on Tuesday to warn him that his conduct was shaking investor confidence, saying, “Your behavior is fueling an unhelpful perception of your leadership—thin-skinned and short-tempered.”
Munster’s intervention came after Tesla shares fell and then rebounded after the spat with Unsworth.
Musk’s tweets referring to Unsworth “crossed the line,” Munster wrote, saying, “I suspect you would agree, given you deleted the string from Twitter, but it will take more than that to regain investor confidence.”
Unsworth, 63, has not reacted publicly to the apology, but previously said he has been approached by British and American lawyers and would seek legal advice over the remarks.