Controversial U.S. broadcaster Alex Jones has been found liable in defamation cases brought in Connecticut and Texas by parents of children killed in the 2012 mass school shooting. Jones has spread conspiracy theories for years saying the shooting was a government hoax aiming at promoting gun control.
Twenty children and six adults were shot dead by a lone gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut on 14 December 2012. The gunman also killed his mother, and took his own life.
Jones, a talk-radio host, businessman and founder of right-wing websites such as Infowars and Newswars, was sued by parents who are horrified by his claims that they were actors and the tragic events never really happened. The bereaved parents have been victims of trolling and harassment by Jones’ followers. The parents also accused Jones of making financial profit from his claims.
In cases judged in Connecticut, and Texas, where Jones is based, judges found him liable of defamation. However, in all of the cases, the judgements were by default, because Jones and fellow defendants refused to provide the court and the families’ lawyers with documents demanded by the court, including financial records. His lawyers claimed that Jones’ statements were protected under First Amendment free speech, but the default rulings mean that those claims were not tested in court.
In a bizarre twist, Jones actually admitted in an official deposition for a 2019 case in Texas brought by Sandy Hook parents, "And I, myself, have almost had like a form of psychosis back in the past where I basically thought everything was staged, even though I've now learned a lot of times things aren't staged."
Juries in both Connecticut and Texas will now decide the amount of damages Jones will be ordered to pay to the plaintiffs. His defence team has indicated he will appeal.
This is far from being Jones’ only farfetched conspiracy claim. He also says the 2018 Parkland shooting was another gun-control motivated hoax, that 9/11 was perpetrated by the government and the “Pizzagate” hoax he helped spread about Democratic Party officials including then Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton being involved in a child-trafficking ring based in a pizzeria basement is believed to have affected her election results.
Jones was banned by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in 2018 for hate speech and abusive behaviour. But he still hosts a popular talk radio show on the GCN network as well as running websites. Much of his funding is believed to come from selling dubious but unregulated health supplements according to reports by the New York Times.
You could also use it as an example in connection with the section on freedom of speech in Shine Bright AMC File 13 The land of the free.