What just happened? It’s fair to say that Elon Musk does not take criticism well. After a diver who aided in the rescue of 12 schoolboys trapped in a flooded cave called Musk’s offer to help a “PR stunt,” the Tesla boss branded him “pedo guy” on Twitter.
On July 2, two British divers finally tracked down the boys’ soccer team that had been missing in Thailand’s Tham Luang caverns since June 23. Heavy rainfall had trapped them in a flooded chamber two miles inside the complex, and there was no easy way to get the kids and their coach safely back out.
Just over one week ago, Elon Musk tweeted that engineers from his SpaceX and Boring Company were heading to Thailand to “see if we can be helpful” to the government. One of Musk’s plans for extracting the trapped team was to use a miniature submarine. He even posted video footage of tests being carried out on the mini-sub.
Testing underwater in LA pool pic.twitter.com/CDO2mtjP2D— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 8, 2018
On July 10, an international team managed to rescue the boys. Narongsak Osatanakorn, the head of the joint command center coordinating the operation, said that Musk’s submarine would have been impractical for the extraction, adding that “it doesn’t fit with our mission.” The billionaire responded by calling Osatanakorn “not the subject matter expert,” and “inaccurately described as rescue chief.”
Osatanakorn’s comments weren’t as damning as those from Vern Unsworth, who played a critical part in the mission. He told Musk to “stick his submarine where it hurts.” The British diver said the sub “had absolutely no chance of working” because Musk “had no conception of what the cave passage was like.”
“The submarine, I believe, was about five foot six long, rigid, so it wouldn’t have gone round corners or round any obstacles. It wouldn’t have made the first 50 meters into the cave from the dive start point. Just a PR stunt.”
Unsworth said Musk was “asked to leave very quickly” after he arrived at the caves during the rescue.
Yesterday (July 15), Musk refuted claims that he was asked to leave. He implied that it was “sus” [suspect] for a British ex-pat to be living in Thailand,” and wrote “Sorry pedo guy you really did ask for it.”
When a Twitter user called out Musk for his attack on Unsworth, he doubled down on the claims. "Bet ya a signed dollar it's true," he wrote in another tweet.
The tweets have since been deleted, though not before several of Musk’s 22 million followers pointed out the dangers of making such allegations.
Unsworth says he is now considering taking legal action against Musk. "Yes, it's not finished," he told Australia's Channel 7 News. "It's not finished. I believe he's called me a pedophile. Well, by definition, you're rescuing 12 young boys, by definition that puts everybody in the same context."
"I'm not going to make any further comment about him, but I think people realise what sort of guy he is."