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Musk says ‘pedo guy’ tweet not meant literally

This article is more than 12 months old

LOS ANGELES: High-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk testified at his defamation trial on Tuesday that his "pedo guy" tweet was not meant to be taken literally and was sent in response to an "unprovoked" insult he received from the man now suing him.

Mr Musk, 48, the billionaire chief executive of electric carmaker Tesla Inc and founder of the rocket company SpaceX, also apologised to the plaintiff from the witness stand in the packed Los Angeles courtroom.

Mr Musk was the first witness called to testify in the lawsuit brought against him by British cave diver who gained fame for his lead role in the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand last year.

The diver, Mr Vernon Unsworth, has accused Mr Musk of falsely labelling him a paedophile on Twitter and is seeking unspecified punitive and other money damages.

The case stems from an offer Mr Musk made to furnish a mini-submarine to assist in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave rescue in July 2018.

Mr Unsworth told CNN on July 13, 2018, three days after the rescue was successfully completed, that Mr Musk's offer was a "PR stunt" and that Mr Musk should "stick his submarine where it hurts".

Two days later, Mr Musk lashed out in a series of tweets, including one which called Mr Unsworth a "pedo guy."

Mr Musk later apologised for the comment, saying it was a common insult in South Africa where he grew up. Mr Unsworth has called the slur a lie that harmed his reputation.

To win the case, Mr Unsworth needs to show Mr Musk was negligent in publishing a falsehood that clearly identified the plaintiff and caused him harm.

Mr Musk's lawyer Alex Spiro countered that Mr Unsworth did not act after the tweet like a man who suffered because of it.

"The plaintiff is saying he has been horribly damaged, and deserves money," Mr Spiro said.

"He doesn't." - REUTERS