Musk said it was an ‘imaginative insult’ — but ‘pedo guy’ tweet lawsuit advances

Tesla CEO Elon Musk faces a defamation lawsuit after tweeting an insult at the man who rescued Thai boys trapped in a cave last year.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Elon Musk can’t duck behind an “imaginative insult” defense to escape a lawsuit by a British cave rescuer who took offense at being called a “pedo guy” after he had ridiculed Musk’s mini-submarine.

A federal judge in Los Angeles on Friday denied the Tesla Inc. chief executive officer’s request to dismiss Vernon Unsworth’s defamation complaint. The judge said a written ruling explaining his order will come later.

The spat with Unsworth erupted after the caver criticized the mini-submarine Musk had built to assist in the rescue of a group of Thai boys that were trapped in a flooded cave last year. Unsworth said in a CNN interview that the mini-submarine, which wasn’t used in the rescue, was a “p.r. stunt” and that Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.”


Musk’s tweeting habits, particularly regarding Tesla’s business, have landed him in hot water with investors and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Under a settlement with the SEC last year, he’s supposed to have the company oversee his Tesla-related tweets that could influence the market.

A February tweet about 2019 Tesla deliveries prompted the SEC to go to court to accuse Musk of violating the agreement. Musk and the SEC on Friday agreed anew to settle the dispute.

John Hueston, a lawyer for Musk, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.