A British diver who helped rescue youth soccer players trapped in a cave in Thailand is suing Elon Musk, alleging that the Tesla CEO falsely accused him of being a pedophile.
Diver Vernon Unsworth, who lives north of London, contends that Musk made the false allegation on Twitter and then repeated multiple other falsehoods after the dramatic rescue of a dozen youth soccer players and their coach in July.
The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles federal court Monday seeks more than $75,000 in damages and a court order stopping Musk from making further allegations. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musk called Unsworth a "pedo" in a tweet to his 22.5 million followers after Unsworth criticized Musk in a July 13 television interview with CNN about the rescue.
Musk and engineers from his rocket company, SpaceX, built a small submarine and shipped it to Thailand to help with the rescue. The device wasn't used and in the interview, Unsworth called it a "PR stunt" and said it wouldn't have worked to free the boys who were trapped in the flooded cave. He also said Musk "can stick his submarine somewhere where it hurts."
The lawsuit alleges that Musk, apparently angered by Unsworth's remarks, began a campaign to destroy his reputation "by publishing false and heinous accusations of criminality against him to the public."
In a series of tweets July 15, Musk, who personally delivered the submarine to the cave, wrote that he never saw Unsworth and challenged him to show a video of the final rescue. "Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it," Musk tweeted. Later on Twitter, Musk wrote "Bet ya a dollar it's true."
Later Musk deleted the tweets and apologized after being criticized by shareholders, the lawsuit alleged, stating in a tweet that his words were "spoken in anger" and that the sub was built out of kindness according to specifications from the dive team leader.
But on Aug. 28, Musk tweeted about Unsworth once again, writing: "You don't think it's strange he hasn't sued me? He was offered free legal services." The lawsuit states that with the tweet, Musk sought to tell the average reader that Unsworth's failure to sue at the time was evidence that Unsworth is a pedophile.
Two days after the Aug. 28 tweet, Musk e-mailed a BuzzFeed News reporter, suggesting that the reporter investigate Unsworth and "stop defending child rapists," according to the lawsuit, which is 65 pages with exhibits.
Then in a second e-mail to BuzzFeed, Musk accused Unsworth of being a liar and said he wasn't on the cave dive team.
"Mr. Unsworth is not a pedophile. Mr. Unsworth has never engaged in an act of pedophilia. Mr. Unsworth is not a child rapist," the lawsuit stated, adding that Unsworth has never been married to a minor.