- Elon Musk has filed a motion to dismiss the defamation allegation brought by British cave diver Vern Unsworth.
- Unsworth is suing Musk after the Tesla CEO baselessly called him a pedophile.
- Musk’s lawyers argue that his “over-the-top insults” were opinion, not factual statements, and should be protected by free speech laws.
Elon Musk would really like everyone to just forget about that whole ‘pedo’ thing.
Lawyers for the Tesla CEO have filed a motion to dismiss the defamation claim brought by Vern Unsworth, the British cave diver baselessly described by Musk as a “pedo guy.”
We first heard of the legal update on Thursday via BuzzFeed reporter Ryan Mac.
The billionaire CEO’s attempt to dismiss the claim hinges on the arguments that Unsworth attacked Musk first, that Musk made his attacks on a social media platform known for “hyperbole”, and that Musk’s remarks were opinion and not statements of fact.
Musk’s lawyers wrote in a filing to a California court: “[The] reasonable reader would not have believed that Musk – without ever having met Unsworth, in the midst of a schoolyard spat on social media, and from 8,000 miles afar – was conveying that he was in possession of private knowledge that Unsworth was sexually attracted to children or engaged with sex acts with children.”
They described Twitter, where Musk first made his insults, as a “rough-and-tumble” platform known for “invective and hyperbole.” Most readers, they claimed, don’t necessarily expect everything they read on social media to be factually correct.
And they claimed Musk’s statements were “imaginative attacks” which were protected by US free speech laws. Expressions of opinion are protected under Californian law.
The lawyers wrote: “The more colourful the invective, the more likely the reader is to understand that it is opinion.”
Unsworth’s legal representative in the US, L. Lin Wood, dismissed the argumented put forward by Musk’s lawyers.
In a statement to Business Insider, Wood said: “Mr. Musk does not let the facts or law get in the way of his novel but inaccurate contentions in his motion to dismiss…
“I entirely reject Mr. Musk’s frivolous contention that all statements published on Twitter or other social media are protected speech. I am confident the trial court will likewise reject his fanciful position which if adopted, would effectively prevent all individuals from seeking redress for any and all false attacks on reputation published on the Internet.”
Musk’s feud with the British cave diver began in July
Vern Unsworth is one of the cave divers who helped in the effort this summer to rescue 12 Thai boys and their football coach from a network of caves in Thailand, where they had been stranded thanks to floodwater.
About a week after the boys went missing, Musk stated on Twitter that he was keen to help in the rescue attempt. He subsequently flew to Thailand with engineers from his company SpaceX to offer up a mini-submarine as a rescue vehicle. Ultimately, the head of the rescue mission described the mini-submarine as “not practical”, and the boys were successfully rescued by diverse guiding them through the cave network.
After the rescue, Unsworth appeared on CNN and dismissed Elon Musk’s mini-submarine, stating that the Tesla CEO could “stick his submarine where it hurts.” He criticised the plan as a PR stunt.
This prompted Musk to describe Unsworth a “pedo guy” baselessly on Twitter. He later apologised and deleted the original tweet, but then revived the feud in August by asking why Unsworth hadn’t sued him yet. He then doubled down on his original pedophile comments in an email to BuzzFeed, suggesting Unsworth was a “child rapist”, again without offering proof.
You can read Musk’s motion to dismiss here: