Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ website Infowars has filed for bankruptcy. The move could stay defamation suits over false allegations that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Far-right conspiratorial broadcaster Alex Jones is seeking bankruptcy protection for three of his companies. Jones lied about the Sandy Hook school shooting, an attack in which 20 children and six school employees were killed in Newtown, Connecticut. He is the target of several defamation lawsuits from the families of the victims who say his pranks put them in danger. Reporting by NPR’s John Burnett.
JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: The embattled conspirator is trying to save his broadcast and online business, InfoWars, as more courts find him responsible for defaming the families of dead schoolchildren. Jones’ latest move seeks to stay civil lawsuits while he reorganizes his debts. In a bankruptcy filing, Jones said InfoWars’ liabilities could reach $10 million, far exceeding assets of no more than $50,000. The 49 creditors listed are the parents who are suing him. Their children were among 26 victims slain by a deranged gunman who broke into an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut nearly a decade ago. Jones falsely claimed on air that it never happened, that the feds organized the mass shooting, though he later recanted.
Plaintiffs’ attorney, Mark Bankston.
MARK BANKSTON: None of Mr. Jones’ ridiculous stuff has worked in the past. This one won’t fare any better.
BURNETT: The pugnacious radio personality was kicked off Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other mainstream platforms for promoting hate speech and lies, but InfoWars is still playing on about 100 radio stations, as well only on its website. A new book on Sandy Hook by New York Times reporter Elizabeth Williamson says the InfoWars online store brought in $50 million in revenue in a single year at its peak under fan-favorite Donald Trump’s administration. The store’s extensive offering includes expensive alternative medicines, freeze-dried foods, and survival gear. said Williamson…
ELIZABETH WILLIAMSON: It’s traditionally all of its product types that address that distrust of the federal government and established science.
BURNETT: For his part, Jones argues that the libel suits violate his First Amendment rights. Here he is on a show earlier this month.
(SOUND EXCERPT FROM AN ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ALEX JONES: … The bombings. And we’re still here because you keep us on the air. And they want to intimidate us all. They all want to control us. As we warned you, first it’s Alex Jones, then it’s everyone. Good now…
BURNETT: Jury selection was scheduled to begin next Monday in Austin, where InfoWars is based, in the first case to go to trial. A state judge entered a default judgment against Jones for ignoring court orders. And if the trial continues, a jury will determine monetary damages for two Sandy Hook families. It’s unclear whether the bankruptcy filings will delay this and other civil lawsuits against Alex Jones.
John Burnett, NPR News, Austin.
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