Enigmatic businessman and Tesla CEO Elon Musk faced massive backlash in September after calling British cave explorer Vernon Unsworth a "pedo guy" on his Twitter account, which currently has 26.4 million followers. The social media blast earned Musk a defamation lawsuit filed by Unsworth's lawyers—after Musk was reportedly quoted saying, "I f***ing hope he sues me"—and although the infamous company executive asked that the case be dismissed, an initial court date has now been set for Oct. 22.
Recent court filings originally revealed the news with multiple reports confirming it on Friday.
Musk's request to disregard the defamation suit was ultimately denied, likely due in part to an email he reportedly sent to Buzzfeed which reiterated his statements about Unsworth, supposedly calling him a "child rapist." Additional emails from Musk to Buzzfeed allegedly involved the business magnate saying Unsworth—who was instrumental in the retrieval of a Thai youth soccer team who nearly drowned in a cave—had moved to Southeast Asia to take a 12-year-old "child bride."
Musk claimed that these statements weren't based in fact and were instead a prod at Unsworth, though when reviewed by district judge Stephen V. Wilson, his statements "implied assertions of objective fact."
Per a report by The Verge, Judge Wilson wrote that Musk “did not call [Unsworth] a ‘pedo guy’ and leave it there. Rather, he made follow-up statements indicating that he believed his statements to be true.” Furthermore, Wilson wrote, “[Musk] purported to convey actual facts and even suggested that the BuzzFeed reporter call people in Thailand to confirm his narrative.”
While the decision to go ahead with the trial doesn't legally condemn Musk as guilty of these actions, it does mean that the court system believes there to be a case worthy of hearing.
Twitter use has left Musk in hot water before, most notably when he became involved with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission for posts thought by some to be an attempt at artificially building Tesla stocks. This also resulted in the South African-born celebrity appearing in court, several times, with the most recent agreement being struck between Musk and the SEC on April 26.