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Alex Jones, founder of the website InfoWars and host of a popular radio show, has been found liable in multiple defamation lawsuits brought by parents of the victims of the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. ― AFP pic

Thursday, 04 Aug 2022 9:07 AM MYT

WASHINGTON, Aug 4 ― A Texas jury yesterday began weighing how much in damages a prominent far-right US conspiracy theorist should pay for claiming that the massacre of 20 children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a “hoax.”

Alex Jones, founder of the website InfoWars and host of a popular radio show, has been found liable in multiple defamation lawsuits brought by parents of the victims of the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

The 48-year-old Jones claimed for years on his show that the Sandy Hook shooting was “staged” by gun control activists and the parents were “crisis actors,” but has since acknowledged it was “100 per cent real.”

A 12-person jury in Austin, Texas, heard closing arguments on Tuesday in the first of the multiple defamation cases against Jones to reach the damages phase.

The case was brought by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of six-year-old Jesse Lewis, who was among the children slain by a 20-year-old gunman in the worst-ever school shooting in the United States.

Heslin and Lewis delivered emotional testimony about the impact of Jones’ false claims on their lives, including harassment, online abuse and death threats.

They are seeking compensatory damages of at least US$150 million (RM668 million) from Jones, an ally and supporter of former president Donald Trump, who appeared frequently on his radio show during his 2016 presidential campaign.

“We’re here to make sure Alex Jones and his company pays for the reckless lies that they told,” Kyle Farrar, an attorney for the parents, said in his closing argument.

Jesse’s parents have been the victims of a “continuous year after year campaign of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress,” Farrar said.

Jones spread misinformation and was “profiting off of their pain,” the lawyer said, reaping tens of millions of dollars from online traffic and sales of InfoWars-branded products.

“He spews hate, that’s what gets people riled up,” Farrar said.

F. Andino Reynal, a lawyer for Jones, told the jury that the InfoWars founder should not be held responsible for any of the actions of his listeners.

“Alex ran with a story and he made a mistake,” Reynal said. “He trusted the wrong people. And he ran with a story that ended up being false.”

InfoWars declared bankruptcy in April and another company owned by Jones, Free Speech Systems, filed for bankruptcy last week. ― AFP