Tesla tycoon Elon Musk was worried British cave rescuer Vern Unsworth might be “another Jeffrey Epstein,” he said in a sworn deposition – but his initial tweets calling the diver a “pedo guy” were just innocent internet insults.
Musk only called Unsworth a “pedo guy” as a generic insult, “synonymous with ‘creepy old man’ and aimed at mocking a person’s appearance and demeanor,” he stated in a deposition released on Monday. He “did not intend to convey any facts or imply that Mr. Unsworth had engaged in acts of pedophilia” but was instead lashing out in response to Unsworth calling Musk’s attempts to help with the rescue of the boys’ soccer team trapped in a cave in Thailand a “PR stunt” and telling him to “stick his submarine where it hurts.”
After hiring a private investigator to look into Unsworth’s background, however, Musk started to have second thoughts about this whole “pedo” thing. His PI claimed that “there was evidence” Unsworth met his Thai wife when she was just 11 or 12 years old, and that he frequently traveled to Pattaya Beach for sex tourism. This, he claimed, was his motivation in calling the cave diver a “child rapist” in an email to Buzzfeed.
“What if this is a real situation?” Musk asked. “What if what we have here is another Jeffrey Epstein…I am told this information. I don’t know if it’s true.”
But what if we have another Jeffrey Epstein on our hands? And what if he uses whatever celebrity he gains from this cave rescue to shield his bad deeds? This would be terrible.
Musk’s retelling of his side of the cave rescue saga is part of an effort to get the $75,000 defamation lawsuit filed against him by Unsworth dismissed. The case is due to go to trial in December. Unsworth denies any of the claims made against him by the PI, including ever having been to Pattaya, let alone meeting a mythical child bride there – and Musk now claims he believes the PI was “just taking us for a ride.” It’s a little too late for 20/20 hindsight – but that won’t stop Musk from trying, as the deposition showed.
“Mr. Unsworth cannot establish a defamation case just because Mr. Musk insulted him on Twitter and sent a private email to a reporter,” Musk’s attorneys state in the document. “The Constitution does not allow that.” Unsworth, the lawyers point out, is a limited-purpose public figure who willingly inserted himself into the controversy by insulting Musk on television.