Culture

Elon Musk Doubles Down, Calling A Thai Cave Rescuer A “Child Rapist”

Musk provided no evidence to back up his claims.

Elon Musk

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has reignited his feud with one of the divers who helped to coordinate the rescue of a Thai youth soccer team from a flooded cave complex, describing the man as a “child rapist” despite not providing any evidence to back up his explosive claim.

Back in July, Musk tweeted that 63-year-old British diver Vernon Unsworth was a “pedo guy” after Unsworth, who was involved in the Thai cave rescue operation, described Musk’s offer of a mini-submarine as a “PR stunt” and told him he should “stick his submarine where it hurts”.

Musk subsequently deleted the tweet and apologised, but last week revisited his claim, tweeting “you don’t think it’s strange [Unsworth] hasn’t sued me?” This was despite the fact that a legal letter was reportedly sent to Musk by Unsworth’s lawyer in early August warning him that Unsworth was “preparing a civil complaint for libel”.

When contacted by BuzzFeed News for comment, Musk doubled down on his unsubstantiated assertion that Unsworth is a paedophile.

“I suggest that you call people you know in Thailand, find out what’s actually going on and stop defending child rapists, you fucking asshole,” Musk wrote in an email dated August 30, which was published by BuzzFeed on Tuesday.

“He’s an old, single white guy from England who’s been travelling to or living in Thailand for 30 to 40 years, mostly Pattaya Beach, until moving to Chiang Rai for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time.”

“As for this alleged threat of a lawsuit, which magically appeared when I raised the issue (nothing was sent or raised beforehand), I fucking hope he sues me,” Musk added.

Musk prefaced the email by saying it was “off the record”, but the thing is… that’s not how off the record works. Being off the record requires both parties — journalist and interviewee —  to agree that the conversation will stay off the record. In this case, the journalists say they never agreed and weren’t bound by the convention.

In a statement, Unsworth’s lawyer said that “Elon Musk can tweet his vindictive and vicious lie about Mr. Unsworth a hundred times and it will still be a lie”. He also said the billionaire’s conduct “demonstrates that his recklessness is intentional and designed to harm Mr. Unsworth”.

Musk also claimed that Unsworth “wasn’t on the cave dive team and most of the actual dive team refused to hang out with him”. In another email, he said he had been told Unsworth “was banned from the site”.

While Unsworth didn’t dive during the rescue operation, his expertise was described as “vital” by people involved.

“He was never kicked off site by anyone and worked continuously on the rescue for the full duration,” British diver Rick Stanton told BuzzFeed. “He was pivotal to the entire operation.”

“Vern seemed like an excellent guy and absolutely vital to the mission,” agreed Australian diver Richard Harris. “You must be confusing him with someone else.”

Feature image via Steve Jurvetson/Flickr