When in late June a dozen Thai boys and their soccer coach were trapped deep inside a cave after rainwater filled in narrow passages behind them, experts from around the world offered their help to the Thai government in rescuing the kids out before time ran out. One of those people was British caver Vernon Unsworth, who helped find and bring the boys out. A veteran caver who lives in Chiang Rai, Thailand, and spent years exploring the Tham Luang cave system in which the boys were trapped, the 63-year-old Unsworth was the first foreign rescuer on the scene, the Sun reported.
Another was Musk, who offered a "kid-sized" mini-submarine created by his rocket company, SpaceX, as well as his own commentary, to help the effort. However, the rescue team rejected his proposal, and Unsworth was quoted by CNN as having said Musk's proposal was "just a PR stunt" that "had absolutely no chance of working."
An angry Musk fired back on Twitter, saying on July 15, "We will make one [video] of the mini-sub/pod going all the way to Cave 5 no problem. Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it." "Pedo" is a British slang term for a pedophile.
Musk also suggested that the reason Unsworth lived in Thailand at all was suspicious, implying he was there because he was a pedophile — or perhaps that all expatriates who live in Thailand are pedophiles? It's unclear.
ah good it appears elon musk is now doubling down on his claim that one of the cave rescuers is a pedophile pic.twitter.com/3QSGhjQPON— Max Tani (@maxwelltani) July 15, 2018
All 12 boys and their coach were rescued safely by July 10, having endured 18 days underground, CBS reported.
After Unsworth indicated to Reuters on July 17 he was considering legal action against the billionaire industrialist, Musk apologized on Twitter the following day, saying, "His actions against me do not justify my actions against him, and for that I apologize to Mr. Unsworth and to the companies I represent as leader. The fault is mine and mine alone."
"I am aware of his apology, and no further comment," Unsworth told Reuters that day.
After that, not a word was heard for more than a month, until Musk reignited the issue on August 28 by responding to a Tweet that brought up the "pedo" comment by insinuating that the apparent lack of a suit against him indicated something suspicious about Unsworth.
You don’t think it’s strange he hasn’t sued me? He was offered free legal services. And you call yourself @yoda …— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 28, 2018
That's when the other boot dropped.
Turns out, Unsworth had quietly sought legal counsel in L. Lin Wood, an Atlanta-based defamation expert, to press a libel claim against Musk. The letter from Unsworth to Musk indicating his intent, dated August 6, was made public August 29.
Here's the full letter threatening libel suit against @elonmusk from attorney for Thai-rescue volunteer Vernon Unsworth, whom Elon baselessly called a "pedo guy" (as first noted by @RMac18) pic.twitter.com/0kWxyhNKkF— Drew Harwell (@drewharwell) August 29, 2018
"You published through three different tweets to your twenty-two million followers that Mr. Unsworth engages in the sexual exploitation of Thai children, and you did so at a time when he was working to save the lives of twelve Thai children," the letter claims. "You did so without any basis. According to a subsequent Twitter post, you did so out of anger."
The suit is only the latest in a litany of scandals to embrew the industrialist. He is also under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission for irregularities regarding his announced intention to take electric car company Tesla private and general public scrutiny for his surreal relationship with music star Grimes.