Elon Musk: 'I'm A Fucking Idiot'

Tesla and SpaceX CEO and self-admitted idiot Elon Musk. (Photo: Jae C. Hong, AP)

Elon Musk admitted he is a “fucking idiot” for smearing a British cave diver that helped save a dozen kids as a “child rapist” in an email to a BuzzFeed reporter, court documents in the ensuing defamation trial show.

A refresher: Last year, 12 kids and their soccer team coach were trapped in a cave in Thailand but emerged alive weeks later thanks to the efforts of rescuers, including British expat and Thailand resident Vernon Unsworth.

Later, Unsworth criticised a “mini-sub” that Musk had his engineers build for the rescue effort as worthless and having “absolutely no chance of working.” Musk retaliated by accusing Unsworth of being a “pedo guy” in a tweet to his millions of followers on July 15, 2018.

Musk also doubled down in an August 2018 series of emails to BuzzFeed News in which he referred to Unsworth as a “child rapist” and claimed the diver moved to Chiang Rai to marry a 12-year-old girl, citing a private investigator. (British tabloids later reported Woranan Ratrawiphukkun is 40 and met Unsworth in the UK less than a decade ago.)

While Musk could charitably be called ignorant with respect to journalistic norms — he once cited an alleged sex cult’s website as evidence that the media is biased against him — he really took that to the next level in his emails to BuzzFeed, which he assumed would not publish them because he prefaced them with “off the record.”

That nothing one says to a reporter is actually off the record unless they affirmatively agree to it in advance is more or less a kindergarten-level lesson in media literacy. Well, Musk now realises that he flunked that class. Court documents from Unsworth’s legal team, based on info found during discovery, show he told a PR consultant: “I didn’t expect Buzzfeed to publish an off the record email. My intent was to have them investigate and come to their own conclusions, not publish my email directly. Still, I’m a fucking idiot.”

He added that it was “one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done,” with Unsworth’s legal team helpfully putting both of the quotes in boldface emphasis.

Musk claimed the basis for this was a private investigator he had hired for $74,000, James Howard-Higgins, in an apparent attempt to prove Unsworth was a pedophile. In reality, Howards-Higgins is a convicted felon and fraudster who reportedly scored the gig by sending Musk an unsolicited email promising to reveal the “skeletons in [Mr. Unsworth’s] cupboard.”

That alone is enough to give anyone an aneurysm. But according to Unsworth’s legal team, Howard-Higgins had already told Musk that he was in the process of verifying that Unsworth’s wife was at least 18 or 19 when they met when Musk sent the emails to BuzzFeed.

It gets worse. The documents state that Musk directed an underling, his family office chief Jared Birchall, to have Howard-Higgins leak information:

We would like you to immediately move forward with ‘leaking’ this information to the UK press. Obviously this must be done very carefully. The line of thinking...is: [1] Thailand is the world’s capital of pedophilia [2] This man has frequented Thailand since the 80's . . . [3] While the guise of cave exploration is creative, there are amazing and extensive caving systems in many places throughout the world . . . [4] He eventually woman [sic] 30 years his minor - whom he met while she was a teenager [5] He had been going to Thailand for decades before marrying her. She wasn’t the first girl he met - and definitely not the first teenager he interacted with. Share the facts and as you said, that should be enough for a story.

Unsworth’s team also wrote that the discovery documents show Howard-Higgins proceeded with this plan under the anonymous email “bangkokjohn,” which all sounds very credible. This plan was also set in motion after Howard-Higgins had told Musk he believed Unsworth had met his wife when she was 18 or 19.

This is all very humiliating stuff. But it doesn’t end there! BuzzFeed reported the filings also show that Musk admitted in depositions that Howard-Higgins was “in retrospect, just taking us for a ride,” as well as that the investigator is back in jail for violating the terms of his parole.

The depositions also claim that Musk and his team dropped work on the mini-sub to pressure the Thai government into saying it was a really good idea, actually:

On July 10th, before the Boys were all rescued, Musk and members of his team that were supposed to be engaged in developing the Tube were instead enlisting the Thai government (including the Thai Prime Minister) to publicly reverse a statement by the Thai regional governor’s statement that the Tube was not practical and did not fit the mission.

These documents are in response to Musk’s legal team, which asked for the case to be dismissed last month on the dubious basis that Musk did not mean “pedo guy” literally. Unless Musk has knocked out the judge, put on his wig and robes, and snuck into the courtroom with an elaborately forged ruling using a mini-sub, it seems rather unlikely that request will be granted.

In fact, if we may hazard a guess, it sure seems like Musk is gonna have to write another big-arse check for bad tweets sometime soon.

[Ryan Mac/BuzzFeed]

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