The best quotes from Elon Musks pedo guy testimony – Wired.co.uk

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A few minutes after lunch on a mild December day in California, Elon Musk, flanked by a cohort of muscly bodyguards, arrived in court. He faced the first round of a bitter defamation battle launched by British diver Vernon Unsworth, who took Musk to court for repeatedly calling him a “pedo guy” on Twitter. But does what Musk actually say in court actually stack up with what happened?

Let’s recap: the enmity between the two men started when Unsworth accused the Tesla founder of trying to overshadow the daring rescue of 12 Thai boys and their football coach, who had become trapped in a cave in Chiang Rai after it flooded. While an international team of rescuers worked to bring the boys out, Musk began testing his own idea – a mini-submarine made of rocket parts that could fit a child inside.

Musk’s attorney claimed it was an attack on the “genuineness of his efforts” that couldn’t possibly go without a riposte. Musk agreed.

“It was an unprovoked attack on a good-natured attempt to help the kids, and [Unsworth] flat-out lied when he said we were asked to leave”

Alex Spiro, Musk’s attorney, defined the case as one “about insults between two men”. After all, Unsworth said in a TV interview that Musk, who travelled to Thailand to try and rescue children trapped in a cave system with a miniature submarine he built, could “stick his submarine where it hurts”.

That’s when Musk upped the ante.

“It was wrong and insulting and so I insulted him back”

In reality, much of what Unsworth said, while blunt, wasn’t really incorrect.

The submarine had been designed by Musk and his team with little knowledge of the cave system and its twists and turns. When it arrived in Thailand – unbidden, and with a large retinue that some feel disrupted the genuine rescue efforts being led by a team including Unsworth – it didn’t even fit into the cave entrance.

Even if it did have a sense of charity at its core, at least part of the plan seemed like just another PR stunt from the man who has sent one of his Tesla electric cars into space just because he could. And yet Musk reacted badly to Unsworth calling him out in a TV interview. In court yesterday, Musk said that him calling the diver a “pedo guy” on Twitter was an “equivalent” insult to what Unsworth said about him.

“I thought it was obvious that I didn’t mean he was a paedophile”… “Just as I thought it was obvious that he did not mean to physically sodomise me with a submarine, I thought it was obvious that I didn’t mean he was a paedophile”

The “pedo guy” tweet, the entrepreneur claimed again in court yesterday, wasn’t meant to insinuate that Unsworth had a sexual interest in kids. He has also claimed that everyone in South Africa, where he was born, throws around insults calling each other paedophiles all the time.

However, that doesn’t chime with Musk’s other behaviour around the time. He hired a private detective (who later turned out to be a fraud) to dig up dirt on Unsworth and his past, in an attempt to find evidence to substantiate the claim that Unsworth was interested in children. He also emailed reporters to claim that Unsworth was a “child rapist”, and asked to be sued.

Musk also claimed that he had watched the interview with Unsworth multiple times before writing his tweets – an indication that this was not a tossed-off insult but in fact pre-meditated.

The reason Musk made the point about growing up in South Africa where he claims people calls creepy old men ‘pedo guys’ is important, explains Paul Bernal, associate professor in Law at the University of East Anglia. “Calling someone a paedophile is an assertion of ‘fact’ rather than an opinion, and is much harder to defend.”

“People say a lot of things on Twitter that aren’t true”

As someone who prides himself on communicating to his almost 30 million Twitter followers directly – even at the risk of being accused of market manipulation – Musk’s attempt to trivialise his Twitter escapades enter into tricky territory.

The tweets he posted about Unsworth were seen by millions, and their impact was deemed by Unsworth’s lawyers to be damaging to his reputation. Musk has apologised to the diver in a tweet and at the pre-trial deposition, and once more apologised directly to Unsworth in court yesterday. But the damage done by what he said depends on how important Musk is online.

It’s on this basis that Unsworth brought bringing his defamation lawsuit. All that the diver’s legal team needs to prove is that Musk was negligent in tweeting that he was a “pedo guy” and caused harm. Proving malice in the tweet isn’t necessary: the judge in the case has decided that Unsworth is a private figure who would not expect to be scrutinised in this way.

In fact, the Musk legal team tried hard on the first day to diminish their client’s achievements. Musk’s argument was that he was not enough of an online influencer to stop US president Donald Trump from withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.

“[I’ve] tried very hard to convince people to take climate change seriously”

He may not have swayed the Trump administration, but this is false modesty from a man who managed to drive 200,000 pre-orders of his controversial Tesla Cybertruck in just three days after its launch, which would account for one in every 14 electric vehicles expected to be sold worldwide this year, according to analysts Frost & Sullivan. (That’s not even counting Tesla’s Model 3 car, which accounted for two in every three electric cars sold in the United States in the second quarter of 2019.)

Even with a jury made up of people who don’t love Tesla nor follow his antics on Twitter, it’s clear this case is going to be hard for Musk. And if he ends up being found guilty of defamation, then the jury could award damages based on the level of Musk’s wealth and importance if they take “punitive” damages seriously.

The case continues.

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