Elon Musk, the billionaire inventor, has apologised to a British expat who helped with the rescue of 12 schoolboys trapped in a cave in Thailand after falsely calling him a “pedo” on social media.
The Tesla founder and chief executive had been threatened with legal action over the Twitter comment about Vern Unsworth, a diver who had earlier claimed the Tesla founder's offers to help save the children were a "PR stunt".
On Wednesday morning, Mr Musk responded to a Twitter user who had shared an article about the dispute, saying: "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 and according to specifications from the dive team leader.
"Nonetheless, his actions against me do not justify my actions against him, and for that I apologise to Mr Unsworth and to the companies I represent as leader.
"The fault is mine and mine alone."
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.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 18, 2018
Mr Musk’s attack on Mr Unsworth included claims that he had never seen him at the cave and - the false claim - that he was a paedophile. Mr Musk has since deleted the tweets.
The attack by Mr Musk, 47, came after the experienced cave diver rubbished the Telsa CEO’s plans to use a miniature submarine to save the boys.
Mr Unsworth had earlier accused the tech entrepreneur of creating a "PR stunt", saying Mr Musk "can stick his submarine where it hurts".
"It just had absolutely no chance of working. He had no conception of what the cave passage was like," Mr Unsworth told CNN last week.
"The submarine, I believe, was about five-foot-six long, rigid, so it wouldn't have gone round corners or round any obstacles."
It is understood that Mr Unsworth has expert local knowledge of the Tham Luang cave system where the boys were trapped, and has several years of experience diving there.
Mr Musk had earlier been mocked online after the Thai football team and its coach were rescued without the help of his submarine.
Mr Musk has also previously said he would be more careful over his use of Twitter, after shareholders called for a period of “peace” in the wake of a number of social media rows.
“I have made the mistaken assumption – and I will attempt to be better at this – of thinking that because somebody is on Twitter and is attacking me that it is open season. That is my mistake. I will correct it,” he said in an interview last week.
Social media users said his recent promise makes his false and defamatory attack on Mr Unsworth all the more inexplicable.
Some users reported Mr Musk’s comments to Twitter, one reportedly saying he “shouldn’t be allowed to use the social network to unleash [his] followers on people like this”.