However, despite the adoration he receives from his massive fan base, many find the successful entrepreneur to be an insufferable and attention-hungry plutocrat—less Henry Ford and more Kanye West, as Vanity Fair memorably put it.
If I am a narcissist (which might be true), at least I am a useful one
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 8, 2018
A good example of such infantile tantrums came last year when Musk called British cave diver Vernon Unsworth a “pedo guy” on Twitter after the diver—who helped rescue a team of young soccer players from an underground cave in Thailand—criticized the businessman’s own plan to rescue the youths with an experimental mini-submarine.
Unsworth blasted Musk’s plan as a “PR stunt” and told him to “stick his submarine where it hurts.” Harsh words, no doubt.
But then Musk went off the deep end. As if groundlessly accusing a man of being a pedophile before millions of Twitter users wasn’t enough, Musk then accused Unsworth of being “child rapist” in an email to journalist Ryan Mac at BuzzFeed News. In the email, the boy genius wrote:
“I suggest that you call people you know in Thailand, find out what’s actually going on and stop defending child rapists, you fucking asshole.
He’s an old, single white guy from England who’s been traveling to or living in Thailand for 30 to 40 years, mostly Pattaya Beach, until moving to Chiang Rai for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time.”
As for this alleged threat of a lawsuit, which magically appeared when I raised the issue (nothing was sent or raised beforehand), I fucking hope he sues me.”
Musk is now getting his wish, as Unsworth is dragging the wealthy executive to court over the comments. The Tesla chief executive will now face a jury trial in December after Los Angeles District judge Stephen Wilson rejected his request to dismiss the defamation lawsuit filed by Unsworth.
Musk’s lawyers have argued that their client was merely lobbing insults at Unsworth rather than serious allegations, claiming that “pedo guy” is some sort of common insult on the streets of Musk’s home country, South Africa.
However, on the surface level it appears that the Tesla founder was indeed engaged in character assassination. According to court documents filed this month, Musk did hire a private investigator to delve into Unsworth’s past—but the P.I. turned out to be a convicted felon. Unsworth himself maintains that he met his wife in London, when she was already 32 years old.
As for his angry email to Mac, Musk later claimed that it was off the record—an agreement that Mac had apparently not consented to.
However, Musk’s legal team is putting on a brave face heading into trial. Alex Spiro, an attorney for Musk, told Bloomberg:
“We look forward to the trial.
We understand that, while Musk has apologized, Unsworth would like to milk his 15 minutes of fame.”
Despite Musk’s belated apologies for his irresponsible and groundless accusations, we expect that Unsworth will be getting far more than a simple 15 minutes of fame from the ill-tempered billionaire.
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