Tesla shares fall after Musk's spat with British diver

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Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) founder Elon Musk apologized to British caver Vern Unsworth for comments he made about him following the rescue of a dozen Thai schoolboys and their football coach from a cave in northern Thailand.

The tumble follows the tech billionaire's escalating spat with British caver Vernon Unsworth, who has said that he wouldn't rule out legal action after the tech billionaire publicly accused him of being a pedophile, an unsubstantiated claim that has baffled those who know the caver.

In an interview with CNN last week, Unsworth slammed Musk for sending a child-sized submarine to Thailand to help with rescue efforts, calling it a "PR stunt".

Musk responded with a tweet branding Unsworth a "pedo". "And so essentially if you attack me, it is therefore OK for me to attack back", Musk said.

The tweets were later deleted. Tesla is worth more than $52 billion, largely on the promise of Musk's genius. But the boys were saved by a volunteer rescue team.

Mr Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research, who has always been bullish on Tesla, said the latest dust-ups involving Mr Musk only show "he is human", and do not detract from his quality as a great innovator. Musk had flown to Thailand and offered to assist in the rescue mission of 12 boys and their coach from a flooded cave by providing a submarine, but leaders of the operation declined his help. In May, Tesla shares suffered a similar plunge after Musk's erratic performance.

Claus Rasmussen, a Danish national and instructor at Blue Label diving in Phuket, called the allegations "inappropriate" and praised Unsworth's role in the rescue. "The submarine, I believe, was about 5ft 6in long, rigid, so it wouldn't have gone around corners or round any obstacles".

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Musk responded by saying Mr. Osotthanakorn was "not the subject matter expert".

Tesla stock plunged 3% on Monday on news that Musk called the diver a "pedophile guy" and of his controversial political contributions to Republican campaign groups.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, said Unsworth could potentially bring a legal case arguing that Musk's attack was libel - a false and written statement that defamed or damaged his reputation.

Challenged on the social media site to provide evidence to support his accusation, Musk tweeted: "Bet ya a signed dollar it's true".

When asked if he would consider legal action against Mr Musk over the comments, he said, "yes, it's not finished". He said Musk, whom he had never met, must have a "bruised ego".

Unsworth's wife said Monday that her husband was returning to Britain on July 19, where he will speak to lawyers, Reuters reports.

The episode also seemed to repel some of Tesla's closest backers, including alternative-energy loyalists who saw in Tesla a worthy opponent to the juggernauts of the oil and gas industries.