Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, second from right, arrives at U.S. District Court, in Los Angeles, Calif., on Dec. 4, 2019.

Mark J. Terrill/The Associated Press

Elon Musk, wrapping up two days of testimony at his defamation trial on Wednesday, insisted his “pedo guy” Twitter message at the heart of the case was an “off-the-cuff” insult hurriedly written in anger and not meant to be taken literally.

The chief executive of electric carmaker Tesla Inc. and founder of rocket company SpaceX also acknowledged in a packed Los Angeles federal courtroom his net worth, mostly from stock holdings in those two companies, was about US$20-billion.

“Sometimes people think I have a lot of cash. I actually don’t,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Musk, 48, the first witness to testify at his trial, also apologized again from the stand to the plaintiff, Vernon Unsworth, the British cave explorer and diver who is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the case.

After leading a successful rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand in July 2018, Mr. Unsworth in a CNN interview mocked Mr. Musk’s offer of a mini-submersible as a public relations stunt, and said Mr. Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.”

Mr. Musk testified he took to Twitter two days later to lash back at Mr. Unsworth because he found Mr. Unsworth’s comments “extremely rude and contemptuous.”

“This was very much an off-the-cuff response,” Musk said.

‘LOW-STAKES WAGER’

Asked whether he was accusing Mr. Unsworth of the crime of pedophilia by referring to him as “pedo guy” in a series of tweets, Mr. Musk said, “absolutely not.”

Mr. Musk’s “pedo guy” tweet is one of three tweets that Mr. Unsworth has said defamed him and harmed his reputation. In one of the others, Mr. Musk wrote: “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true,” in response to a Twitter follower asking whether he was really suggesting that Mr. Unsworth was a pedophile.

On the witness stand on Wednesday, Mr. Musk downplayed that tweet, saying: “It’s obviously a low-stakes wager.”

Story continues below advertisement

U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson has said the case hinges on whether a reasonable person would take Mr. Musk’s tweets to mean that he was calling Mr. Unsworth a pedophile.

To win the defamation case, Mr. Unsworth needs to show that Musk was negligent in publishing a falsehood that clearly identified him and caused him harm. “Actual malice” by Mr. Musk does not need to be proven because the judge deemed Mr. Unsworth a private individual, not a public figure.

Although the case does not involve Tesla, Mr. Musk’s Twitter habits have long been under close scrutiny, with the company’s investors and regulators expressing concerns about his tweets.

With 29.9 million followers, Musk’s social media account is a major source of publicity for the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tesla, which does not advertise.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies