Elon Musk suffered a legal blow earlier this week when a federal judge rejected the Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) CEO’s attempts to have a defamation lawsuit filed against him by a British cave explorer thrown out. Now the tech visionary could be setting himself up for more legal setbacks with his newest decision to testify in his own defense in court. This is in the case filed by Vern Unsworth where he is accused of defaming the British cave explorer by calling him a pedophile.
Given Musk’s record and personality, this could turn out to be the worst decision he has ever made. Coming less than a week since the embarrassing unveiling of the Tesla Cybertruck, the court appearance could turn out to be another moment where Musk tries to showcase solid bullet-proof arguments only to have holes poked in them!
Here are five reasons why Musk’s lawyers shouldn’t allow the Tesla CEO to take to the witness stand.
It is no secret that Musk has a credibility problem. Several times he has issued statements on Twitter exaggerating Tesla’s delivery numbers and other company fundamentals.
Just last year, he stated that he was going to take Tesla private at $420 a share and that funding had been secured. None of this materialized. The list is long and all of this will serve the plaintiff’s lawyers in casting him as a witness whose testimony is not to be believed.
No matter how hard his lawyers prepare him, no matter how much time is spent coaching him, Musk could easily go off the beaten trail.
While testifying Elon Musk is likely to get asked questions he won’t like. Unfortunately, if the past is any guide, Musk doesn’t handle such situations well. A case in point is his behavior during an earnings call last year in March. This was right after Tesla had just announced a record quarterly loss of over $700 million.
After analysts posed probing financial questions, Musk snapped and ruled out answering further. As he lambasted the analysts for asking “boring bonehead questions” that were “not cool”, he went on to allow a YouTuber to ask 10 questions! Lawyers for the plaintiff would be fools to fail not to try to exploit this character flaw.
Musk has previously shown poor judgment in various situations. Arguably one of the most hilarious of these incidents was Musk smoking marijuana in a media appearance. It is hard not to see the plaintiff’s lawyers painting the alleged defamation of Unsworth as true to Musk’s character where he once again demonstrated poor judgment.
The defamation lawsuit he is facing might not have come to see the light of day had Musk let it go after the initial baseless accusation. Instead, Musk doubled down at various points in time. After accusing Unsworth of being a pedophile in July, Musk went on to apologize.
But in late August the Tesla CEO brought it up again suggesting that the reason he hadn’t been sued at the time might have been because his accusations were not off the mark. Unsworth was to file the lawsuit the following month.
Knowing his weaknesses and flaws, it wouldn’t take much for the plaintiff’s lawyers to make him say something regrettable in a courtroom.
He may be regarded by some as a tech genius but that has never stopped Musk from doing or saying something dumb.
Early last month, Musk claimed in court documents that he had hired a private investigator to look into Unsworth’s background and obtain dirt on the British cave diver. The Tesla CEO admitted the private investigator fooled him, stating:
I’m a f**king idiot.
But while some may see his folly as being taken in by the PI, the bigger question is why the CEO of a billion-dollar firm would go around throwing insults at an obscure personality? Why? The answer lies in Musk’s own colorful phrase.
All his life Musk has excelled at nearly everything he has put his mind into. His entrepreneurial and technological genius has seen him explore diverse fields offering mankind solutions to pressing challenges. But until he can invent personality transplants, he should avoid appearing as his own witness in court.