Conspiracy theorist and right-wing grifter Alex Jones’ defamation trial, stemming from lies he told about mass shooting victims, began Monday with jury selection in Texas.
Parents of two victims of the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, are suing Jones in Texas, where his companies are based, for falsely claiming the murders were a hoax and that they helped stage them.
In all, 26 people — 20 children and six faculty members — were killed. Jones regularly claimed on his conspiratorial Infowars podcast and website that the shooting was a “false flag” operation, and derided the victims and their families as “crisis actors.” As lawsuits against him mounted, he eventually admitted the shooting was real — but not before Sandy Hook families say they faced intense harassment from his followers because of his lies.
Courts in Texas and Connecticut have issued default judgements finding Jones liable for damages in separate defamation cases connected to his Sandy Hook lies. Those cases were decided before they went to trial.
In the near-decade since Jones began spreading these gross lies about Sandy Hook, such behavior has become a modus operandi for conservatives looking to dismiss, downplay and distract from the United States’ uniquely horrible gun violence problem.
Lawmakers linked to the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy, like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, are prime examples. But the problem has proliferated throughout the conservative movement as many of its members have sought refuge from reality in lies.
The result of Jones’ trial could be a deterrent for other right-wing conspiracy theorists if he’s forced to damages once again. And that certainly seems like an outcome Jones is preparing for. In March, he attempted to reach a settlement out of court with some of the families he maligned (that settlement was swiftly rejected). He was found in contempt for twice failing to attend depositions in Connecticut. He was expected to be refunded the $75,000 in contempt fines after he sat for two depositions in April.
Jones filed for bankruptcy protection in April, potentially to delay the start of his trial and protect his assets. He agreed to end bankruptcy protections for Infowars in June after Sandy Hook families agreed to drop the company from its defamation lawsuits.
Court records show Jones’ Infowars store, which hawks questionable health supplements and other products, made $165 million between 2015 and 2018, according to NBC News.
Jones has years staving off accountability for his harmful lies about mass shooting victims. Now that the case has finally arrived, we’ll see whether his luck has run out — and what that might mean for fellow right-wing conspiracy theorists.