Elon Musk, who has in recent weeks used Twitter to attack his critics with unsubstantiated accusations, has come under fire for accusing a diver who participated in the rescue of the 12 boys from a cave in Thailand of sex crimes.
Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has been combative ever since he first threw out the idea of becoming involved in the rescue operation, at the suggestion of one of his fans on Twitter. Soon after announcing his intention, he concocted a plan to send a miniature submarine to transport the children, many of whom could not swim. Critics on Twitter immediately mocked the idea, and it soon became clear, even after Musk brought the sub to Thailand himself, that Musk’s contribution would not be put to use.
When Vernon Unsworth, one British diver involved in the rescue mission, was interviewed by CNN after all boys were rescued, Unsworth called the submarine a “PR stunt” with “absolutely no chance of working” and told Musk “he can stick his submarine where it hurts.” He added that Musk had been quickly asked to leave after he arrived at the cave.
Musk responded on Twitter, where he has 22 million followers, claiming rescuers had repeatedly asked him to build the sub and that he was escorted into the cave by Thai Navy SEALs. He also suggested that Unsworth had not actually been involved in the rescue mission and asserted that his submarine would have worked.
“We will make [a video] of the mini-sub/pod going all the way to Cave 5 no problemo,” he wrote. “Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.”
When another person on Twitter called Musk out for calling a rescue worker a “pedo,” Musk responded, “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.”
There appears to be no basis for Musk’s allegation, and Musk has since deleted the tweets but has not apologized or responded to the backlash. Musk also attracted criticism on July 10 when he called Narongsak Osatanakorn, the head of the rescue operation, “not the subject matter expert” after Osatanakorn said the submarine was “not practical.”
According to the Guardian, Unsworth has said that he is weighing taking legal action against Musk. “It’s not finished,” he told journalists. “I think people realize what sort of a guy he is.”