Alex Jones concedes Sandy Hook attack was '100% real’

Parents of child killed in school shooting suing conspiracy theorist for damages

Alex Jones attempts to answer questions asked by Mark Bankston, lawyer for Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, during trial in Austin, Texas. AP
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US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones said on Wednesday that he now understands it was irresponsible of him to declare the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre a hoax and that he now believes it was “100 per cent real”.

Speaking a day after the parents of a 6-year-old boy who was killed in the 2012 attack gave evidence about the suffering, death threats and harassment they have endured because of what Jones has trumpeted across his media platforms, the Infowars host told a Texas courtroom that he definitely thinks the attack happened.

“Especially since I’ve met the parents. It’s 100 per cent real,” Jones said at his trial to determine how much he and his media company, Free Speech Systems, owe for defaming Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis.

Their son, Jesse Lewis, was among the 20 pupils and six educators that were killed in the attack in Newtown, Connecticut — the deadliest school shooting in American history.

But Mr Heslin and Ms Lewis said on Tuesday that an apology would not suffice and that Jones needed to be held accountable for repeatedly spreading falsehoods about the attack. They are seeking at least $150 million.

Jones told the jury that any compensation above $2m “will sink us” but added: “I think it’s appropriate for whatever you decide that you want to do.”

Testimony concluded around midday and closing arguments were expected to begin on Wednesday afternoon.

Jones was the only person who gave evidence in his own defence. His lawyer asked him if he now understood it was “absolutely irresponsible” to push the false claims that the massacre did not happen and that no one died. Jones said he did.

Lawyer Mark Bankston went after Jones’s credibility, showing an Infowars video clip from last week in which a person claimed the trial was rigged and showed a photo of the judge in the case on fire.

Then came another clip of Jones asking if the jury was selected from a group of people “who don’t know what planet” they live on. Jones said he had not meant that part literally.

Mr Bankston said Jones had not complied with court orders to provide text message and emails for pretrial evidence gathering. Jones said: “I don’t use email”.

He was then shown a photo of an email from another source that featured his email address. He replied: “I must have dictated that.”

At one point, Mr Bankston informed Jones that his lawyers had mistakenly sent him two years’ worth of texts from Jones’s mobile phone.

Jones’s testimony came a day after Mr Heslin and Ms Lewis told the courtroom in Austin, where Jones and his companies are based, that he and his claims of a hoax had made their lives a “living hell” of death threats, online abuse and harassment.

Mr Heslin told the jury about cradling his son, who had a bullet hole through his head, and even described the extent of the damage to his body. A key segment of the case is a 2017 Infowars broadcast during which it was said Mr Heslin did not hold his son.

At stake in the trial is how much Jones will pay. The parents have asked the jury to award $150m in compensation for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury will then consider whether Jones and his company will pay punitive damages.

AP contributed to this report

Updated: September 20, 2022, 6:52 PM