LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) — Billionaire Tesla CEO Elon Musk was in federal court Tuesday in downtown Los Angeles and apologized to the British diver who
sued him for posting on Twitter that he was a pedophile.

Vern Unsworth sued Musk last year for unspecified damages after Musk called him a “pedo guy” on social media and referred to him in emails as a “child rapist” who married a 12-year-old Thai girl.

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In court Tuesday, Musk, 48, said he was using only figurative speech after Unsworth insulted him, calling the comments unprovoked, “wrong and insulting.”

“I apologize to Mr. Unsworth,” Musk told the civil jury hearing the case.

Unsworth helped rescue a dozen boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand last year. He had belittled the billionaire’s effort to build a mini-submarine to transport the boys.

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At the time, Musk said didn’t know Unsworth had been involved in the rescue effort.

The Tesla CEO also denied he was literally accusing Unsworth of a crime by calling him “pedo guy” in a tweet, any more than Unsworth was being literal when he said Musk should stick the submarine “where it hurts.”

During the weeks-long cave rescue effort, which garnered worldwide attention, Musk had offered to create a miniature escape pod to assist in the rescue. In an interview, Vernon Unsworth called the offer a PR stunt, and Musk responded by referring to him as a pedophile on Twitter.

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Unsworth sued Musk last year and is seeking punitive and compensatory damages.