Elon Musk has said he did not intend to accuse a diver who helped rescue 12 Thai boys from a cave of being a paedophile – despite calling him a “pedo guy”.
The Tesla Inc chief executive made the claim as he tried to get a defamation lawsuit against him dismissed.
Vernon Unsworth brought the case against the multi-billionaire after saying in an interview that Musk was throwing a “PR stunt” by offering to help his dive team rescue the boys and their football coach from a flooded Thai cave system in 2018.
Mr Musk then called him a “pedo guy” on Twitter.
He has now said the term was “a common insult used in South Africa when I was growing up”.
And he claimed it was “synonymous with ‘creepy old man'”, and was used to insult a person’s appearance and demeanour.
“I did not intend to accuse Mr Unsworth of engaging in acts of paedophilia,” he said.
“In response to his insults in the CNN interview, I meant to insult him back by expressing my opinion that he seemed like a creepy old man.”
Mr Musk also sent an email to a BuzzFeed News reporter after the slagging match, asking them to “stop defending child rapists”.
He has now claimed that was an “off the record” email based on an aide’s summary of a private investigator’s report on Mr Unsworth, which he did not know was false.
Mr Unsworth is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
His lawyer, L Lin Wood, said he will reply to Musk’s claims in three weeks, but aded: “I’ll keep my powder dry for now, but I can assure you it will be explosive.”
Mr Wood called Mr Musk’s motion “as offensive to the truth as was his original tweet”.
He added Mr Unworth is “a good man whose efforts saved the lives of 13 people”.
Mr Musk has claimed Mr Unworth is a public figure when it comes to the cave rescue, which would require him showing clear and convincing evidence that Mr Musk made his statements with “actual malice”.
Earlier this year Mr Musk agreed to seek his lawyers’ approval before tweeting about Tesla’s finances after saying he had secured funding to take the company private in 2018 at $420 (£325) a share, despite not having the money to pull off the deal.
Source: SKY NEWS