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Sandy Hook Victims Family Win Big Against Alex Jones
The families of eight Sandy Hook victims have won a defamation lawsuit against InfoWars founder Alex Jones. Jones, a conspiracy extremist, had called the massacre of 26 students and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut “a giant hoax,” claiming that it was “completely fake with actors.” This is the fourth defamation case that the families have won by default against Alex Jones.
Sandy Hook families have filed five defamation lawsuits in Texas and Connecticut. The lawsuits have been considered controversial.
The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred in 2012 in Newton, Connecticut when 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children between the ages of six and seven and six adult staff members. Lanza had killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, before proceeding to the school to commit the deadliest mass shooting at an elementary school in the U.S. He later committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
Who is Alex Jones?
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, most famous for his web show and radio show InfoWars, made comments back into 2014 and 2017, calling the traumatic event a “hoax” with “actors.”
The 47-year-old launched his web show in 1999 and has since spread misinformation and conspiracy lies. He hosts The Alex Jones Show and also owns other conspiracy theory websites, NewsWars and PrisonPlanet. His websites of fake news have opened a platform for white nationalist ideologies. By 2010, Jones amassed a following of over two million listeners a week.
In 2018, large technology companies banned Jones from spreading false information. Google, Facebook, Apple, and Spotify have restricted Jones, removing posts and videos from their sites, citing bullying, “child endangerment and hate speech.”
It is not the only time that Jones, the severely right-winged, alt-right Trump supporter, has promoted his conspiracies regarding major events. He previously claimed that Democrats run a global child-sex ring. He has also claimed that major fatal events such as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the September 11 terrorist attacks were concealed acts from the U.S. government.
During his show on his InfoWars website in March 2014, Jones claimed that the families were “actors” who faked the deaths of their loved ones, stating “no one died” after claiming that an interview between Anderson Cooper and Veronique De La Rosa, the mother of victim Noah Pozner, was fake.
“They’ve got in one shot leaves blowing and flowers that are around,” he said, promoting the idea that the shooting was an attempt for supporters of gun control to push their activism, a conspiracy he also associated with the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. “You see the leaves blowing, and they go – they glitch, recycling of a green screen behind them.”
Jones continued to make hoax claims for years following the shooting.
“Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured,” he said in 2015. “I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids. And it just shows how bold they are that they clearly used actors.”
When reissuing the claims in 2017, the families of the victims decided that they had enough.
The Sandy Hook Lawsuits
In March 2018, William Sherlach, husband of victim Mary Sherlach, sued Jones and InfoWars for the comments made about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The lawsuit claimed that Jones caused emotional distress “severe enough that it might result in illness or bodily harm” including suffering “harassment and potential violence.”
In April 2018, the father of victim Neil Heslin sued Jones and InfoWars in Texas. The lawsuit claimed that Jones’ defamation had caused “a severe degree of mental stress and anguish which have disrupted their failing routine and caused a high degree of psychological pain.” Jones was held liable without trial and ordered to pay more than $100,000 in legal fees. Also, in April 2018, the parents of victim Noah Pozner sued Jones and InfoWars for defamation. The Pozner’s claim that they live in hiding, moving nearly ten times since the shooting.
By June 2018, six other families of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims in Connecticut, and an FBI agent who responded to the attack, filed a defamation lawsuit against Jones for his prior remarks of the shooting. The lengthy complaint details, by date, countless statements made by Jones and his affiliates, including broadcasted interviews with Megyn Kelly on NBC News – an interview that Nicole Hockley, mother of a victim, asked NBC News executives to cancel. The interview still aired on Father’s Day.
The complaint continues to highlight Jones’ abuse and false accusations for attention and business. Jones claimed in court papers that he had the right to be wrong under the First Amendment. He compared himself to journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, who helped uncover the Watergate scandal, saying that he acted like a journalist by questioning the validity of the shooting in an attempt to dismiss the lawsuit.
Jones later retracted his statements, saying they were wrong.
“I, myself, have almost had like a form of psychosis back in the past where I basically thought everything was staged, even though I’m now learning a lot of times things aren’t staged,” he said, blaming media for his distrust. Still, he claimed the lawsuits were an attack on his First Amendment.
Although he filed an appeal for his First Amendment right, it was, ultimately, turned down in April 2021.
After ongoing lawsuits filed by ten families of the victims against Jones and InfoWars, a Connecticut superior court judge ruled Jones liable by default. Jones had refused to turn over financial and web analytical data ordered by the court. Judge Barbara Bellis called the actions of withholding important documents “a pattern of obstructive conduct.”
“All the defendants have failed to fully and fairly comply with their discovery obligations,” Bellis said.