Elon Musk came under fire on Sunday after launching an extraordinary and baseless attack on a British diver who masterminded the successful rescue of 12 young Thai footballers, falsely calling him a “pedo” on social media.
Mr Musk’s shocking attack on expert cave explorer Vernon Unsworth included claims that he had never seen Mr Unsworth at the cave and - the false claim - that he was a paedophile.
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.
Vernon Unsworth, who led the rescue operation, 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."
In a series of tweets, presented without evidence, responding to a journalist, Mr Musk shot back.: “Never saw this British expat guy who lives in Thailand (sus) at any point when we were in the caves. Only people in sight were the Thai navy/army guys, who were great. Thai navy seals escorted us in — total opposite of wanting us to leave.”
In case his use of “(sus)” left room for doubt, Mr Musk doubled-down on his remarks, adding in later tweets: “Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it”.
Mr Musk has since deleted the tweets.
Neither Mr Musk or Mr Unsworth could be reached for comment on Sunday evening.
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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”.