Alex Jones, the host of Infowars — an American far-right media website famous for sharing conspiracy theories and fake news — offered to pay US$120,000 per plaintiff in an ongoing defamation lawsuit that alleges Jones defamed the families of Sandy Hook shooting victims by saying the massacre never occurred.
Within hours, the Sandy Hook families rejected the settlement offer.
In court filings, representatives for the Sandy Hook families wrote the settlement was a “transparent and desperate attempt by Alex Jones to escape a public reckoning under oath with his deceitful, profit-driven campaign against the plaintiffs and the memory of their loved ones lost at Sandy Hook.”
The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred in 2012 when an armed gunman entered the school in Newtown, CT, and opened fire, resulting in the death of 26 people, including 20 children.
Following the massacre, Jones, 48, made several claims on Infowars, calling the shooting a “giant hoax” carried out by crisis actors. Jones also claimed the entire thing was a set up by Second Amendment opponents in the U.S.
The plaintiffs said they have been subjected to harassment and death threats from Jones’ followers because of the hoax conspiracy promoted on his show.
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The court filings posted online said, “Mr. Jones extends his heartfelt apology for any distress his remarks caused.”
Jones eventually retracted his claims that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax, when in a 2019 sworn deposition Jones claimed it was a form of “severe psychosis” that caused him to believe and spread conspiracy theories, including that the massacre was staged.
Jones has also popularized other conspiracies on Infowars, including that the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center were an inside job conducted by U.S. government officials.
In November 2021, a Connecticut judge ruled that Jones was liable for defaming the Sandy Hook shooting victims. A jury will determine the amount of damages Jones is to pay to the Sandy Hook families.
Last week — before the settlement was offered and rejected — Jones was ordered to attend a deposition near his home in Austin, Texas, but failed to show up.
The deposition was scheduled for March 23, though Jones didn’t attend, claiming health problems prevented his attendance. The judge ordered Jones to sit for the deposition the following day, March 24, as he was not hospitalized and had appeared in person to host his Infowars show earlier that week.
Again, Jones did not attend the deposition.
The Sandy Hook families filed motions to arrest Jones for contempt and also fine him for failing to appear for his deposition.
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On Friday, Jones said on his website show that it was “absolutely preposterous” the families’ lawyers were trying to have him arrested for missing a deposition because of illness. He said the families’ lawyers had delayed depositions in the case several times and he didn’t complain.
A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday on a request by the plaintiffs to sanction Jones for not cooperating.
— With files from The Associated Press