Alex Jones has spent years attempting to discredit the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which a gunman fatally shot 20 school children and six adult staff members.
The Infowars host has repeatedly pushed the false narrative that the parents of the deceased children are “crisis actors.” Now, those real-life parents are suing him.
In a pair of lawsuits filed late Monday, the parents of two children killed in the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, allege that Jones’ conspiracy theories have resulted in death threats, attorney Mark Bankston tells Salon.
Neil Heslin, the father of a 6-year-old boy killed in the shooting, and Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, who also lost a son, filed separate defamation suits against Jones in Austin, Texas, where Infowars is filmed. Both of the claims list Jones, Infowars and Free Speech Systems, LLC as defendants, and the plaintiffs are seeking more than $1 in damages, according to a review of the lawsuit by Salon. Infowars reporter Owen Shroyer is also named in one of the lawsuits.
“Even after these folks had to experience this trauma, for the next five years they were tormented by Alex Jones with vicious lies about them,” Bankston, who is handling the pair of cases, told HuffPost. “And these lies were meant to convince his audience that the Sandy Hook parents are frauds and have perpetrated a sinister lie on the American people.”
Bankston told Salon that he is also involved in an additional defamation suit against Jones. He is suing Jones on behalf of the 24-year-old man who Jones falsely identified as the Parkland, Florida, high school shooter. In that tragedy, a former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, killing 17 people.
These lawsuits could have damaging consequences for Jones and Infowars ― especially because they are not the only legal claims that Jones faces.
In March, the man who recorded the deadly car attack at last year's white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, sued Jones for calling him a “deep state shill” and a "CIA asset" who helped organize the attack. The man in question is not working for the CIA, and he did no such thing.
As survivors of the Parkland tragedy spoke out against gun violence in the aftermath of the shooting, Jones compared the student survivors to Nazis, suggesting that they intended to kill gun owners. "Alt-right" sites followed Jones’ lead in spreading fake images of the kids and conspiracy theories, including claims that they were actors paid by the left to advocate for gun reform.
The conspiracy theories eventually found there way onto Fox News outlets. Radio commentator Todd Starnes called the kids "cultural jihadists." While most Fox-affiliated commentators would not openly call the Parkland students "crisis actors," several have hinted at the possibility by suggesting that the teens could not think for themselves and were under the control of outside forces.
There are many more examples, but a trend is clear: Many conservatives have decided to discredit the messengers, often through blatant and vicious direct attacks, rather than engage in a debate.