A recent report claims that Tesla CEO Elon Musk employed a convicted felon to investigate Vern Unsworth, the British Thai cave rescuer who criticized Musk on TV, leading Musk to label him “Pedo Guy.” Unsworth sued Musk for defamation, a case that is ongoing.
A recent report from BuzzFeed News claims that Tesla CEO Elon Musk hired a convicted felon to investigate British cave rescuer Vern Unsworth who dared to criticize Musk’s plans to build a miniature submarine to save a group of Thai children from an underwater cave. Musk called Unsworth “a pedo guy” after Unsworth criticized him.
Musk stated in a recent court filing: “I did not intend to convey any facts or imply that Mr. Unsworth had engaged in acts of pedophilia. Pedo guy was a common insult used in South Africa when I was growing up. It is synonymous with ‘creepy old man’ and is used to insult a person’s appearance and demeanor, not accuse a person of pedophilia.”
In July of 2018, Unsworth called Musk’s plan a “PR stunt” and stated his belief that the miniature submarine would have failed completely to make it through the tight, narrow bends in the underwater cave. “He can stick his submarine where it hurts,” Unsworth said in an interview. “It had absolutely no chance of working. He 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 metres into the cave from the dive start point. Just a PR stunt.”
Musk claimed that his submarine could easily have navigated the cave, telling Unsworth in a now-deleted tweet: “You know what, don’t bother showing the video. We will make one of the mini-sub/pod going all the way to Cave 5 no problemo. Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.”
Now a recent report from BuzzFeed News reveals that the private investigator that Musk paid more than $50,000 to dig up dirt on Unsworth is a convicted felon. BuzzFeed News writes:
Public records and interviews reveal that the man Musk contracted, James Howard-Higgins, stole money from his business partners and was sentenced to three years in prison for fraud. Past associates of the man described the Englishman to BuzzFeed News as a “Walter Mitty character” who repeatedly defrauded a company he cofounded despite disciplinary actions that were meant to keep him in check.
Recently released court documents from a defamation case in US federal court show that Musk retained Howard-Higgins after the self-proclaimed investigator cold-emailed him offering to “dig deep” into Vernon Unsworth, a British expat who played a key role in the rescue of a boys soccer team from a Thailand cave system in July 2018. Unsworth, who had criticized Musk’s efforts to involve himself in the cave rescue, is now suing the billionaire for publicly calling him a pedophile and “child rapist,” an allegation partly based on unsubstantiated information given to him by Howard-Higgins.
Musk’s failure to effectively vet a private investigator he hired and his willingness to repeat serious and unfounded allegations against Unsworth are the latest in a series of public blunders for Tesla’s CEO, whose win-at-all-costs mentality has drawn him into a number of high-profile fights with regulators,former employees, and shareholders. And it has renewed the concerns of institutional investors, some of whom have sued to keep Musk from engaging in reputationally damaging arguments on Twitter.
Professor William Klepper of Columbia Business School stated that company executives should have “thicker skin” than Musk and that his actions put his companies at risk by acting like a “loose cannon.” Klepper stated: “If I’m sitting on that board, I’d say, ‘Wow, does he take similar impulsive moves when he’s working on our company’s strategy?”
For a brief time following his work with musk, Howard-Higgins appeared to live a comfortable life but BuzzFeed News reports that no longer appears to be the case:
Read the full report by BuzzFeed News here.