British diver sues Elon Musk over 'pedo' comments

The British diver that Elon Musk called a "pedo" is suing him for defamation.

Vern Unsworth was heavily involved with rescuing a young football team trapped in a cave in Thailand in July. During the two-week operation, tech billionaire Mr Musk offered to help by creating a mini-submarine he said could transport the boys to safety.

His offer was declined, and after the team was rescued Mr Unsworth told CNN Mr Musk's submarine would never have worked and was "nothing more than a PR stunt".

In retaliation, Mr Musk attacked Mr Unsworth on Twitter and called him "pedo guy", seemingly in reference to Thailand's notorious child sex trafficking.

While he soon deleted the tweets and apologised, Mr Musk later doubled down on his baseless claims in early September, sending a series of bizarre emails to a Buzzfeed journalist.

In one email he wrote: "I suggest that you call people you know in Thailand, find out what's actually going on and stop defending child rapists, you f***ing asshole."

He also claimed Mr Unsworth had moved to Thailand "for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time", but provided no evidence.

Now Mr Unsworth is suing Mr Musk, seeking US$75,000 (NZ$114,000) in damages as well as a court order preventing Mr Musk from making further allegations. The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles federal court but Mr Unsworth is also seeking legal action in English and Welsh courts.

He says Mr Musk "embarked on a PR campaign to destroy" his reputation in anger at his submarine being dismissed.

Mr Unsworth's lawyers reportedly wrote to Mr Musk in August threatening legal action, although Mr Musk later denied this happened, asking a Twitter user: "You don't think it's strange he hasn't sued me?"

Mark Stephens from London law firm Howard Kennedy is representing Mr Unsworth in his action in the High Court, and says Mr Musk's wealth and fame can't shield him from being held accountable.

"[Mr Musk's allegations] show that [allegations] by the rich and powerful can circulate round the globe to their 22.5 million followers and to the media before the truth can pull its boots on."

Newshub.

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz