The judge rejected Elon Musk’s argument that the term “pedo guy” was a common insult.
New York, United States:
A federal judge has cleared the way for a defamation trial against Elon Musk over his comments about a British cave rescuer after rejecting key arguments from the Tesla chief.
US judge Stephen Wilson ordered a trial to begin December 3 in Los Angeles in the case that centers on Musk’s tweets in a disagreement connected to the rescue of 12 boys from a cave in Thailand in July 2018.
Musk called Vernon Unsworth “pedo guy” after Unsworth, who helped with the rescue, ridiculed Musk’s proposal to build a mini-submarine during the crisis as a “PR stunt.”
The judge rejected Musk’s argument that the term “pedo guy” was a common insult and would be seen as an opinion and not a statement of fact.
Wilson said some of Musk’s subsequent statements suggested he believed the charge about Unsworth to be true, which has “created a genuine dispute over the meaning of Defendant’s Tweets” that “must be resolved by a jury.”
Unsworth has denied being a pedophile.
Wilson accepted aspects of Musk’s argument that Unsworth was a “limited public figure” who had voluntarily injected himself into the public debate about how to save the boys.
To win a defamation case in US courts, public figures like celebrities must show actual malice on the part of the person making a false statement, as opposed to the lower standard of negligence.
But Wilson ruled Musk should not be shielded him from a defamation lawsuit because the allegation of pedophilia was not connected to the debate about how to save the boys.
“To allow criticism into every aspect of a plaintiff’s life simply because he chose to get involved in a limited issue would render him an all-purpose public figure,” Wilson wrote in a decision earlier this week.
“For defendant’s comments to relate to Plaintiff’s participation in public controversies, there must be some relationship between pedophilia and the rescue or the subs — there is simply no credible connection here.”
Alex Spiro, an attorney representing Musk, said in an email that “we look forward to the trial.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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