Elon Musk, the tech company billionaire and founder of the tech companies Tesla and SpaceX, often impresses us with his visionary innovations in energy and travel. But the prince has quickly turned into a toad after calling a heroic rescuer “a pedo” and being revealed as a $38,900 donor to a Republican political action committee. What gives?
Why Elon Musk called a heroic rescue worker “a pedo”
After three weeks huddled together in the dark flooded caves of Tham Luang, 12 members of the Wild Boars Thai boys soccer team and their coach were finally rescued, thanks to the combined efforts of Thai Navy SEALS, rescue workers and experienced cave divers from around the world. One of those divers, a British expat named Vern Unsworth, first discovered the boys’ location. Days later, Musk publicly referred to him on Twitter as “a pedo,” which is short for pedophile.
Yes, it’s weird, rude and wildly inappropriate. But to understand why Musk said it, you need to watch Unsworth’s news interview in which he called Musk’s offers to help rescue the boys “a PR stunt.”
In the weeks between Unsworth’s initial discovery and the boys’ rescue, chances seemed slim the boys would make it out alive. Many couldn’t swim through the seasonal rains that had flooded the caves with quick moving, bone-chilling water. Furthermore, the water ran through separate cave hollows and crooked narrow passages that only a single human body could slide through. Even experienced divers had difficulty, and one Thai Navy SEAL even died during the rescue.
Hearing about the water and narrow passages, Elon Musk offered to build a five- to six-foot submarine that would fit a single person. He posted video footage of his sub in development and tweets about how it would work (below). He even visited the Tham Luang caves in person.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 8, 2018
Got more great feedback from Thailand. Primary path is basically a tiny, kid-size submarine using the liquid oxygen transfer tube of Falcon rocket as hull. Light enough to be carried by 2 divers, small enough to get through narrow gaps. Extremely robust.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 7, 2018
But after the Elon Musk offer, head of the rescue efforts Narongsak Osottanakorn declined Musk’s assistance, and Unsworth’s critical news interview explains why.
In the video, an interviewer asks Unsworth about his thoughts on Elon Musk’s idea. Unsworth responds, “He can stick his submarine where it hurts,” before flashing a long toothy grin. “It just 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 meters into the cave from the dive start point. Just a PR stunt.”
The interviewer then mentions that Musk went into the cave at one point, and Unsworth shrugs and says, “And was asked to leave very quickly. And so he should have been.”
Here is Vern Unsworth’s news interview criticizing Elon Musk:
In a now-deleted tweet responding to Zeynep Tufekci, a New York Times writer who wrote an opinion column lightly criticizing Musk’s well-publicized offers to help, Elon Musk wrote, “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.”
What’s weird about Musk’s tweet is that it came on July 15, a full five days after the boys were rescued. Thailand didn’t even need his submarine anymore, but apparently Musk still had something to prove.
Though Musk later deleted the tweet, he also later tweeted out another now-deleted message saying he’d bet a signed dollar that his claim of pedophilia was correct. Insulted by the insinuation of participating in Thailand’s notorious child sex trafficking, Unsworth is now considering legal action against Musk.
Why Musk donated nearly $40,000 to help get Republicans elected
A recent disclosure of Elon Musk’s political donations to the Federal Election Commission showed that Musk had donated nearly $40,000 to the “Protect the House” Republican political action committee, a group which tries to help Republican House representatives keep their seats in competitive districts.
Musk said that he makes annual donations to Democratic and Republican candidates, and these donations ensure lawmakers remain “willing to listen when I call to object about issues that negatively affect humanity.”
Yes, about 0.5% of what I donated to @SierraClub, which is a reasonable amount to maintain an open dialogue
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 15, 2018
But while Musk also defended his donation by mentioning that he has donated nearly $6 million to the Sierra Club, an environmentalist group fighting climate change, he is also helping keep fringe extremists in the Republican Party in power.
His donation all but ensures he’ll have to regularly call Republican leader to discuss “issues that negatively affect humanity,” like the party’s rollback of LGBTQ rights and its near total disbelief in climate change, now that they run all three branches of the federal government.
Update (July 18, 2018): Musk has apologized for calling Unsworth a pedophile via Twitter, stating, “My words were spoken in anger after Mr. Unsworth said several untruths & suggested I engage in a sexual act with the mini-sub, which had been built as an act of kindness & according to specifications from the dive team leader. Nonetheless, his actions against me do not justify my actions against him, and for that I apologize to Mr. Unsworth and to the companies I represent as leader. The fault is mine and mine alone.”
He then pivoted with this tone-deaf transition: “I’ll make sure that my actions won’t affect anyone in a bad way. Let’s as open-minded and as friendly to each other as humanly possible. And I have also prepared something great to ease the tension:” He then linked to a cryptocurrency giveaway website “to make amends with anyone who feels offended.”