Elon Musk calls Thailand diver 'child rapist' in new baseless attack

Tesla CEO, who previously called Vernon Unsworth a ‘pedo’, has faced widespread backlash over his comments

Elon Musk has escalated his baseless attacks against a British diver, claiming without evidence that the man who helped rescue children from a cave in Thailand was a “child rapist” in an email to a reporter.

The embattled Tesla CEO faced widespread backlash in July when he first called the diver Vernon Unsworth a “pedo” in a tweet – an unfounded claim against a man who was part of the international team that freed 12 young footballers and their coach from the Tham Luang cave complex. Musk, who had unsuccessfully attempted to assist the rescue mission, eventually apologized to Unsworth.

On Tuesday, however, BuzzFeed published two new emails from Musk, in which he called a journalist who has written about the dispute a “fucking asshole” and he launched new extraordinary claims against Unsworth, without providing documentation to support the allegations.

Musk called Unsworth a “single white guy from England who’s been traveling to or living in Thailand for 30 to 40 years”, alleging that he had moved to Chiang Rai “for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time”. He asserted that the city was “renowned for child sex-trafficking”.

This was his first email to me after I asked him twice for comment on a legal threat from the rescuer's lawyer.

He prefaced the email with "off the record" though I did not agree to that condition. Off the record is a two-party agreement. pic.twitter.com/szknfOMg0s

— Ryan Mac (@RMac18) September 4, 2018

BuzzFeed reported that it had investigated the allegations and Unsworth’s background, but could not verify any of the claims and said that it was unclear where the allegations originated.

Unsworth, who said he was considering legal action after the original insults on Twitter, is now moving forward with a lawsuit, his lawyer said in an email to the Guardian on Tuesday: “Elon Musk’s campaign of publishing vile and false accusations against Mr Unsworth is inexcusable. Musk hopes to be sued and he deserves to be sued. He will be.”

Musk’s email to BuzzFeed, which was a response to Unsworth’s latest legal threats, said: “I suggest that you call people you know in Thailand, find out what’s actually going on and stop defending child rapists, you fucking asshole … As for this alleged threat of a lawsuit, which magically appeared when I raised the issue (nothing was sent or raised beforehand), I fucking hope he sues me.”

Musk also defended his original effort to help the rescue mission in a follow-up email.

Musk confirmed to the Guardian on Tuesday that he had sent the emailbut did not immediately comment further. Tesla spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment.

BuzzFeed said it could not locate any UK criminal records for Unsworth, 63, and also spoke with his girlfriend, who said she was 40 and had been with him for seven years.

The controversy comes at a time when Tesla and Musk continue to battle intense negative publicity and embarrassing controversies. His seemingly impulsive tweets have repeatedly led him into trouble. Notably, Musk recently tweeted that he had “secured” funding to take his electric car company private, which prompted scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and backlash from investors.

Earlier this year, Tesla’s credit rating was downgraded to negative, with Moody’s citing a “significant shortfall” in the Model 3 production rate. The CEO also faced criticism after he slammed analysts on an earnings call in the spring, saying they should stop asking “boring, bonehead questions”.

After the first attack on Unsworth, some investors demanded an apology and criticized Musk for distracting from Tesla’s mission.

Julia Carrie Wong contributed reporting


Sam Levin in San Francisco

The GuardianTramp

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