Elon Musk won the libel lawsuit against British diver Vernon Answorth, who saved children in Thailand. The entrepreneur called the rescuer a “pedophile” on Twitter, but the jury found this an insult, not a slander. This was reported by The Verge editor Elizabeth Lopatto, who attended the meeting.
As a result of the trial, Musk was found not guilty; he would not incur any costs for the trial. The jury ruled that the “pedo guy” (pedophile) name-calling that Musk had used does not fall under the legal criteria of slander.
Leaving the conference room, Musk stated that “his faith in humanity has been restored,” and entrepreneur lawyer Alex Spiro noted that “the jury made the right choice.”
As one of the eight jurors Carl Shusterman noted in a conversation with BuzzFeed News, the jury decided on the second of five defamation points. Musk won at the moment when the jury got acquainted with the “defiled man.” Shusterman explained that “the people who read the Musk tweet did not know who they were talking about.”
Musk explained at the hearing that “two or three times” had watched a piece of Answorth’s interview before posting tweets. The businessman claims that he did not know about the diver’s participation in the rescue operation and suggested that he was just an expat who lived in Thailand. Musk’s lawyer also insisted that the head of Tesla and SpaceX did not mention Answorth’s offensive tweet.
Diving lawyer Lucian Lincoln Wood called Musk’s tweets about Answorth “a nuclear bomb whose radiation can haunt a lifesaver.” According to him, the entrepreneur took part in saving children in Thailand for the sake of PR stunt in order to attract attention.
In court, Answorth’s lawyer claimed $ 5 million in actual damages, $ 35 million in alleged damages, and $ 150 million in fines. After losing the case, he explained that the task was not to win, but to sue.
The trial between Musk and Unsworth began in Los Angeles on December 3. The diver accused the businessman of slandering a tweet where Musk called the rescuer “pedoguy.” During the hearing, the head of Tesla and SpaceX insisted that his tweets were insults, so they did not fall under defamation.
According to Musk, Twitter is “a place where people engage in verbal battles.” In response, Answorth stated that he considered the tweets to be accusations and called them “dirty.”
How did the conflict develop?
- On June 23, 2018, in the north of Thailand, the children’s Wild Boar football team disappeared along with their coach. They went to a mountain park on the eve of the rainy season and found themselves locked in caves due to the abrupt rainfall;
- On July 2, 2018, rescuers found a team, all the children and the coach were alive, although they spent 9 days without food – they were saved by an air pocket. As it turned out later, the key role in the search was played by Vernan Answorth, who indicated the exact location of the group;
- July 3, 2018 it became known that children are unlikely to be able to get out as soon as possible because they do not know how to dive. Rescuers themselves hardly reached the adolescents due to narrow crevices in the caves and almost zero visibility – they had to leave part of the equipment;
- On July 6, 2018, Elon Musk offered the Thai authorities assistance in saving children from the caves. He considered several options, including drilling the tunnel with The Boring Company and a nylon tube blown from the inside;
- Musk announced on July 8, 2018 , that SpaceX engineers will build a mini-submarine from the Falcon 9 rocket hull to rescue children from caves in Thailand. According to the entrepreneur, this method was chosen as the main rescuers, authorities and engineers of the company. At this point, oxygen was no longer left in the cave with the children – it was delivered by divers;
- On July 8, 2018, the first four teenagers were also rescued from the cave without the help of Elon Musk. Before the release, they were escorted by professional divers, in total, adolescents covered more than four kilometers. The weakest were sent forward, and then the operation was suspended due to increased rainfall;
- On July 9, 2018, Elon Musk showed a capsule for saving children in Thailand, and on July 10, the entrepreneur personally delivered the submarine and went down to the cave. By this moment, most of the group had already been saved, the rest were rescued on the same day without the help of Musk .
- On July 11, 2018, the head of Tesla and SpaceX questioned the competence of the head of the rescue operation, Narongsaka Osatanakorn. Musk said that he was just the former governor who led the operation, and named Diver Stanton, a diver, who, along with another British diver, discovered the missing students;
- On July 13, 2018, a lifeguard, Vern Answorth, in an interview with CNN, criticized Musk and suggested that he “put a mini-submarine in his ass.” According to the diver, the businessman had no idea what the passages in the caves were and “there was no chance that the submarine would work.” Western media then called Answorth a key element in saving children because of his expertise in caves;
- On July 15, 2018, in response to a question from one of the fans about the usefulness of the boat, Musk called Answorth “pedoguy”. However, the entrepreneur did not mention the lifeguard directly;
If this is not true, then I personally challenge: let them provide the last record of the salvation of schoolchildren. And, although you know, you don’t need any video, one of our submarines will go all the way to the “cave 5” without problems. Sorry, pedo guy, but you forced me to.
- On July 18, 2018, Musk deleted tweets about Answorth and apologized, the diver promised to sue him. According to the entrepreneur, he expressed himself in anger after the rescuer slandered him and “offered to have sex with a minisubmarina”;
- On September 5, 2018, Musk again accused Answorth of pedophilia, albeit not publicly. In a correspondence with BuzzFeed, he called the rescuer a “child rapist” and accused of marrying a 12-year-old girl, and also specified that he was hoping for a trial promised by the diver;
- On September 17, 2018, Answorth sued Musk for pedophilia charges. He demanded a minimum of $ 75,000 compensation and an injunction for Musk, who would not have allowed him to publish “false and defamatory information” again;
- On September 17, 2019, it became known that Musk hired a private detective to confirm the guesswork about Answorth’s pedophilia. However, he did not find evidence. In the response to the lawsuit, Musk noted that he didn’t really mean that Answorth is a pedophile, and “pedoguy” is the common term for “ugly old people” in South Africa, where the businessman was born.