Elon Musk revealed that he hired a private investigator for $50,000 to back up his assertion in a 2018 tweet that a British caver was a “pedo guy.”
Musk is now asking a judge to forgo a trial and a throw out a lawsuit by the caver, Vernon Unsworth, accusing the chief executive officer of Tesla Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. of defamation.
“By referring to Mr. Unsworth as ‘pedo guy,’ I did not intend to convey any facts or imply that Mr. Unsworth had engaged in acts of pedophilia,” Musk said in a court filing Monday. “Pedo guy was a common insult used in South Africa when I was growing up. It is synonymous with ‘creepy old man’ and is used to insult a person’s appearance and demeanor, not accuse a person of pedophila.”
Musk revealed that one of his trusted aides commissioned a private investigator to conduct an investigation of Unsworth on Musk’s behalf. The PI reported back that Unsworth had been traveling to Thailand since the 1980s.
“The investigator learned that Mr. Unsworth frequented Pattaya Beach which is well known for prostitution and sex tourism, and that Mr. Unsworth was unpopular at the rescue site because other rescue workers thought that he was ‘creepy,’” Musk’s lawyers said in the filing.
Musk’s legal team asked the judge to dismiss the case before a scheduled Dec. 2 trial, arguing that a BuzzFeed article about his tiff with Unsworth and his tweets don’t meet the legal standard of defamation. They asked the judge to treat Unsworth as a “public figure” for purposes of the case, arguing that Unsworth must meet a higher-than-ordinary level of proof that Musk either knew his statements were false or that he was reckless in making them.
“Mr. Unsworth cannot establish a defamation case just because Mr. Musk insulted him on Twitter and sent a private email to a reporter,” they wrote in the court filing. “The Constitution does not allow that.”