Elon Musk insists ‘pedo guy’ tweet not defamatory

Billionaire Tesla Inc boss Elon Musk arrives at federal court to answer a defamation lawsuit in Los Angeles, California December 3, 2019. — Reuters video still image
Billionaire Tesla Inc boss Elon Musk arrives at federal court to answer a defamation lawsuit in Los Angeles, California December 3, 2019. — Reuters video still image

LOS ANGELES, Dec 5 — Tesla co-founder Elon Musk insisted yesterday that a tweet in which he described a British caver as “pedo guy” amounted to a flippant remark and did not mean he was accusing the man of paedophilia.

“Pedo guy is less significant than pedo. If you add guy to something, it’s less serious,” the 48-year-old tech billionaire testified on the second day of his defamation trial in Los Angeles federal court.

The trial concerns a lawsuit filed by British caver Vernon Unsworth — who helped rescue youth soccer players trapped in a cave in Thailand — over the “pedo guy” tweet and other derogatory remarks Musk made against him.

The July 2018 row between the two men erupted after Unsworth described the entrepreneur’s proposal to build a mini-submarine to rescue the boys as a “PR stunt.”

He also said that Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.” 

Attorneys for both sides in court have been going over the meaning of the term “pedo guy,” which Musk claims was a common insult in South Africa, where he grew up, and meant “creepy old man.”

“Pedo guy is more flippant than pedo, especially in the context I used in the tweet,” Musk told the court yetersday. “It’s obviously an insult, no one interpreted it as meaning he was actually a paedophile.”

As an example, he added, calling someone “motherfucker doesn’t mean incest.”

The trial, which began Tuesday and is expected to last through Friday, hinges on whether Musk’s tweet could have been interpreted by a reasonable person as accusing Unsworth of paedophilia.

Musk ended his testimony yesterday and Unsworth, who lives in Britain and Thailand, was also expected to be called as a witness.

He is seeking unspecified damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress. — AFP

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