Has Elon Musk destroyed his reputation in a single tweet?

Elon Musk (left), caver Vernon Unsworth (right)

Elon Musk’s monstrous attack on one of the British heroes of the Thai cave rescue may have shredded his reputation with a single tweet

Without the British caver Vernon Unsworth, the 12 Thai schoolboys and their football coach who were trapped in the flooded Tham Luang cave might never have been found and rescued.

An unsung hero of that spell-binding evacuation, the Lancashire-born financial broker lives close by the scene of the near-catastrophe.

An experienced caver ever since his days potholing in the Yorkshire Dales, he was the first foreign rescuer on the scene and, 17 days later, one of the last to leave.

The 63-year-old’s intricate knowledge of the labyrinthine system — he knew it better than anyone, having mapped it previously — and his quick thinking in calling in international help when he realised that the Thais were struggling, proved crucial.

Yesterday, however, Mr Unsworth was embroiled in a new rescue mission — this time to save his reputation — after a reprehensible and totally false attack by the billionaire technology baron Elon Musk, who repeatedly accused him of being a paedophile.

More – Pedogate: Musk implied ALL westerners living in Asia are ‘sus’

More – Elon Musk hit by barrage of abuse after ‘pedo’ tweets

Mr Unsworth’s crime was that, during a TV interview at the weekend, he’d dared to criticise Musk, after the self-taught rocket scientist and inventor of Tesla cars complained the rescue teams had failed to use a special mini-sub he’d offered them.

The simple fact that Mr Unsworth was a British expat living in Thailand seems to have been evidence enough, as far as Musk was concerned, to use Twitter to throw the most offensive slurs imaginable at him on Sunday night.

The utterly baseless attack — which Musk has since deleted following an international outcry — started when he noted in a tweet that Mr Unsworth is an ‘expat guy who lives in Thailand’ and described that as ‘sus’ (suspicious).

Musk later made clear why it was suspicious when he said he would make a video proving that his mini-sub would have been successful, adding: ‘Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.’

When another Twitter user questioned why Musk was ‘calling the guy who found the children a pedo’, Musk responded: ‘Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.’

Musk, a thrice-divorced father-of-six who is worth £15 billion, made his first fortune by developing PayPal, the popular online payment system.

While he can easily pay any libel damages, as a tech baron who genuinely wants to benefit humanity and the world, rather than just get obscenely rich, he should perhaps be worried about the greater damage to his reputation.

He has championed clean energy via his electric car company, Tesla, and his solar energy firm and space travel through SpaceX, developing reusable rockets with the aim of colonising Mars for the day when Earth is no longer habitable.

He’s focused on more immediate transport problems, too, such as traffic congestion in Los Angeles, and his engineers are tunnelling under LA to create a prototype underground transport network,

However, it hasn’t been plain sailing of late. Tesla is failing to meet production targets and burning through money — £5,600 every minute and possibly heading for bankruptcy this year, according to financial media company Bloomberg.

Safety at Tesla factories has been criticised and two test drivers have died in accidents involving Tesla self-driving cars.

(Tesla’s share price fell by more than 3 per cent on Monday following Musk’s attack on Mr Unsworth and the news that he had donated £29,000 to a fund dedicated to ensuring Republicans maintain control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Critics accused him of hypocrisy in campaigning for green energy and yet contributing to a party that downplays climate change.)

An exacting workaholic who often bunks down in the office, Musk cannot tolerate criticism, it increasingly seems.

During a recent conference call about Tesla’s profits with market analysts, he complained their questions were boring and hung up.

A month earlier, he also hung up on the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board after an accident involving a Tesla car being driven on autopilot.

The feasibility of his tunnelling and space projects has also been criticised, while there is growing scepticism about his swashbuckling ideas.

Now, the petulant Musk is accusing the media of trying to bring him down and has vowed to set up a website to monitor reporters’ reliability called Pravda (presumably realising the irony of naming it after the former Soviet Union’s official propaganda sheet).

In an interview published just last week and suggestive of at least some self-awareness of the criticism he brings upon himself, Musk pledged to be less combative on Twitter in future.

That resolve clearly didn’t last long. Perhaps the man who’s out to clean up the planet and save mankind might first like to spare us his own monstrous ego. – mailonline

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