Infowars Must Turn Over Internal Documents to Sandy Hook Families, Judge Rules
By Jacey Fortin
January 12, 2019
The families of victims in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School must receive access to internal documents at Infowars, the internet and radio show whose host, Alex Jones, has spread the false claim that the shooting was an elaborate hoax, a judge ruled on Friday.
The ruling was a legal victory for the families, which filed a defamation lawsuit against Mr. Jones, who traffics in conspiracy theories, and Infowars last year. The suit argued that peddling bogus stories was essential to the business model of Infowars, which sells products including survivalist gear, gun paraphernalia and dietary supplements.
A gunman killed 20 children and six adults in the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn., just over six years ago, and Mr. Jones helped to spread the idea that grieving relatives of those victims were paid “crisis actors.”
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are relatives of five children and three adults who were killed, and one F.B.I. agent who responded to the shooting. Their complaint said the families have faced “physical confrontation and harassment, death threats, and a sustained barrage of harassment and verbal assault on social media.”
“They have confronted strange individuals videotaping them and their children,” the suit said. “Some have moved to undisclosed locations to avoid this harassment.”
The complaint said Infowars profits by stoking paranoia to amass more followers, to whom it can sell more products.
“From the beginning, we have alleged that Alex Jones and his financial network trafficked in lies and hate in order to profit from the grief of Sandy Hook families,” Chris Mattei, a lawyer representing the families, said in a statement on Friday. “That is what we intend to prove, and today’s ruling advances our effort.”
The judge, Barbara Bellis of the Connecticut Superior Court, ruled that Mr. Jones would have to surrender documents – including letters, memos, emails and text messages – that concern the business plan or marketing strategies of Infowars, the shooting at Sandy Hook, crisis actors or mass shootings in general, according to the statement.
The parents of two other Sandy Hook victims are also suing Mr. Jones and Infowars in Texas, his home state. They are seeking similar information about his business.
According to a New York Times investigation last year, revenue for Infowars came primarily from the products Mr. Jones hawked during his broadcasts. Infowars and its affiliated companies are private and do not have to report financial results publicly, but according to testimony Mr. Jones gave in an unrelated court case, his operations by 2014 were earning more than $20 million a year in revenue.
Marc Randazza, a lawyer for Mr. Jones, said on Saturday the defense was considering appealing the judge’s decision.
Regarding the lawsuit, he said Mr. Jones had investigated claims that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax and then determined it was not. “The allegation that he somehow spun up a harassment campaign against the parents is a lie,” he said.
In a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, another lawyer for Mr. Jones, Jay Wolman, wrote about the importance of questioning official narratives.
“If they want a stage to dispute the hoax theory, they have numerous media outlets to choose from; the judicial system is not that stage,” the motion said. “The only thing this litigation can accomplish is to force defendants to expend unnecessary fees in defense of their right to freedom of speech.”
In addition to his comments about Sandy Hook, Mr. Jones has suggested that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were an inside job, and that the phony Clinton child trafficking scandal known as Pizzagate warranted serious investigation.
Infowars’s profile was raised in 2015 by Donald J. Trump, who sat for an interview with Mr. Jones during his presidential campaign and praised the conspiracy theorist’s “amazing” reputation.
The increased visibility invited a new level of scrutiny into Mr. Jones’s bogus claims. Apple, Facebook, YouTube and other services have removed Infowars content from their platforms for violating policies on hate speech, child endangerment and inciting violence.
Mr. Jones has also been sued by a man Infowars wrongly suggested was the gunman in the shooting in Parkland, Fla., last year; and by a man who shared video footage of the car that crashed into protesters in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. Both plaintiffs complained they had been harassed by followers of Mr. Jones.