HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones argued he was acting as a journalist, comparing himself to the Washington Post reporters who uncovered the Watergate scandal, when he questioned the official narrative of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting on his talk show.
In written arguments filed Friday, the right-wing radio host moved to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by the families of some of the 26 people killed in the Connecticut shooting. Jones acknowledged that he had called the shooting a hoax, but said he now believes it happened.
"Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein relied on allegations from 'Deep Throat' to link the Nixon Administration to the Watergate break-in," his lawyers wrote in filing for a dismissal. "Such journalism, questioning official narratives, would be chilled if reporters were subject to liability if they turned out to be wrong,"
A gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators at the Newtown, Connecticut, school Dec. 14, 2012.
Several families filed suit in April in state Superior Court, saying that Jones' comments on his show, Infowars, questioning the shooting have tormented them and subjected them to harassment and death threats by his followers, some of whom have accused them of being crisis actors.
"The First Amendment simply does not protect false statements about the parents of one of the worst tragedies in our nation's history," said Bill Bloss, an attorney who represents the families. "Any effort by any of the defendants to avoid responsibility for the harm that they have inflicted will be unsuccessful."
The plaintiffs include the parents of four children killed at the school — Daniel Barden, Dylan Hockley, Ben Wheeler and Avielle Richman. Also suing are relatives of two slain educators — school Principal Dawn Hochsprung and first-grade teacher Victoria Soto. FBI agent William Aldenberg, one of the first responders to the scene, is also a plaintiff.
The lawsuits seek monetary and punitive damages, attorney fees and other costs. They do not say exactly how much money the families are seeking
In separate lawsuits filed in Texas, where Jones' Infowars media company is based, the parents of slain children Jesse Lewis and Noah Pozner sued Jones seeking more than $1 million in damages for alleged defamation.
Wolfgang Halbig, who the families said was a frequent guest on Jones' show and questioned whether the school shooting really happened, is also named as a defendant in the case.
Halbig, a former police officer who lives in Sorrento, Florida, said in April that he believes people died in the shooting, but that authorities refuse to clear up what he believes are discrepancies in the official story.
Jones acknowledged allowing Halbig and others to question the shooting on his show, but said he has a constitutional right to do that.
"To stifle the press (by making them liable for merely interviewing people who have strange theories) will simply turn this human tragedy into a Constitutional one," his attorneys wrote.
Jones' attorneys asked for oral arguments on their motion. Those were not scheduled Monday.—PAT EATON-ROBB, AP