Three parents of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting have filed separate lawsuits against radio host Alex Jones of Infowars, claiming defamation. Jones has spoken on his show frequently about how the Sandy Hook shooting was a “hoax” and never happened, claiming the parents of the victims are all part of a huge “fake news” program. The lawsuits have been reported by several news organizations, including the ABA Journal, The New York Times and the Huffington Post.
The parents, Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa (now divorced) and Neil Heslin, filed separate suits in Texas alleging that they were defamed by Jones’s frequent broadcasts in which he claimed the shooting was a hoax, that it “has inside job written all over it,” and that De La Rosa’s interview with CNN after the shooting was actually done on a set in front of a giant green screen.
Conspiracy theorists latched on to the Sandy Hook shooting as a hoax shortly after it occurred. Jones, who runs the conspiracy theory website, Infowars, has kept it alive and has given the theory far greater publicity than any other outlet.
A defamation claim alleges that the defendant (Jones, in this case), published (that is, gave voice to) something that defames or disparages the plaintiff’s reputation. It’s similar to libel except that libel applies to written material which defamation applies to spoken material. In the United States, libel and defamation claims are not often brought because of the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech to everyone.
Jones’s claims are similar to those who say the Holocaust never happened, that it is just something made up by the Jews after World War II. People like Jones make their living stirring up muck and preying on others. Here’s hoping the plaintiffs in this case are successful.