Tesla CEO Elon Musk is arguing that comments he made in July suggesting that a Thai cave rescuer is a pedophile and child rapist is constitutionally protected speech.
Vernon Unsworth, a cave explorer who was part of a mission to rescue a young boys’ soccer team trapped in a cave in northern Thailand, sued Musk for defamation.
The British diver says he suffered after the Tesla founder called him a “pedo” on Twitter.
Musk’s lawyers are pushing back.
“This motion boils down to a single question,” his legal team wrote Wednesday in a motion to dismiss a lawsuit leveled against the tech billionaire. “Would a reasonable reader believe that Musk’s statements were supported by objective facts or were instead ‘non-actionable opinion?’”
Musk’s lawyers claim his Twitter followers recognized that he was not making a statement of fact but rather an opinion.
Reasonable readers and audience members can distinguish between factual statements and opinions.
“Here, the reasonable reader would not have believed that Musk — without having ever 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 attracted to children or engaged in sex acts with children,” the motion notes.
Unsworth’s lawyers were not swayed.
“Mr. Musk does not let the facts or well-established law get in the way of his novel but inaccurate contentions in his motion to dismiss. Furthermore, I entirely reject Mr. Musk’s frivolous contention that all statements published on Twitter or other social media are protected speech,” Lin Wood, a lawyer representing Unsworth, said in a statement to reporters Thursday.
Musk doubled down on his claims months after the rescue. He claimed in September that reporters were defending “child rapists” for supposedly going after him instead of fleshing out whether Unsworth is a pedophile.
“I suggest that you call people you know in Thailand, find out what’s actually going on and stop defending child rapists, you f—ing a–hole,” Musk told Buzzfeed in an Aug. 29 email he thought was off the record.
The outlet was hoping to get a statement about the nature of his renewed battle with the British diver who’s been living in Thailand for several years.
Musk said in Dec. 7 interview on “60 Minutes” that Twitter is a type of battlefield where only the strongest and boldest survive.
“Twitter’s a war zone. If somebody’s going to jump in the war zone, it’s like OK, you’re in the arena, let’s go,” he said.
Musk has received significant criticism over the past year for his penchant for trolling Tesla short-sellers and journalists alike.
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