Elon Musk has spoken out after he sparked controversy for referring to a man that helped rescue 13 people from a Thai cave as a “pedo.” Vernon Unsworth, a 63-year-old resident of Thailand, said he was left “astonished and very angry” by the remarks, and told reporters this week that he was considering legal action. Musk apologized to Unsworth on Wednesday, three days after making the accusation.
Musk contributed resources to the efforts to rescue the 12 boys and soccer coach trapped in Tham Luang Nang Non cave, sending experts from SpaceX and The Boring Company to assess the situation while developing a miniature submarine in Los Angeles. Musk’s creation went unused, with authorities explaining that it was not a good fit for the mission. Unsworth was thrust into the spotlight when he told CNN last week that Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts,” as it was a “PR stunt” that had “absolutely no chance of working.” Musk replied by referring to Unsworth as “pedo guy.” When challenged on this claim, Musk wrote “bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.”
“My words were spoken in anger after Mr. Unsworth said several untruths & suggested I engage in a sexual act with the mini-sub, which had been built as an act of kindness & according to specifications from the dive team leader,” Musk wrote on Twitter, responding to a Quora post he retweeted that summarized the situation. “Nonetheless, 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.”
Musk’s outburst drew criticism from investors in his company Tesla. James Anderson, a partner at the company’s fourth-largest investor Baillie Gifford, told The Guardian that he saw the end of carbon as essential, but that he’s “frustrated that the real steps towards this are being overshadowed and undermined by this saga.” Gene Munster, head of research at Loup Ventures, said that if Musk didn’t change his attitude to social media, “it could have a dramatic negative impact on the company.”
Whether Musk’s apology precedes a change in approach to social media is unclear. He told Bloomberg earlier this month that “I should probably say nothing [in response to criticism] more often,” but then referred to Unsworth as a “pedo” just two days after the story was published.
Beyond the submarine, Chavez’ tweet also touched on another Musk project — Pravda, a website announced in May to rank the credibility of news outlets, announced after he expressed dissatisfaction with the reporting around his projects.