The far-right broadcaster Alex Jones has been ordered by a Texas jury to pay $4.1m (£3.4m) in damages after repeatedly claiming the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax.
Twenty children and six adults were shot dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012. In the aftermath of the shooting, Jones baselessly claimed that the incident was staged, but he told a court this week that he now believes the incident was “100% real”.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse Lewis was killed in the attack, had been seeking at least $150m in the defamation trial against the Infowars founder. In a statement on their behalf, their lawyer, Mark Bankston, welcomed the outcome, saying Jones would “not sleep easy tonight”.
During “charged testimony”, said Al Jazeera, the parents had told the court that the false hoax claims made their lives a “living hell” of death threats, online abuse and harassment.
Jones portrayed the case as an attack on his free speech rights under the First Amendment of the US Constitution, but the verdict against him has been widely welcomed. Writing in The Independent, Ryan Coogan said “there is little in this world more gratifying than seeing a bad man get his comeuppance”. He hoped Jones would be “the first of many bloated, odious dominoes to fall”.
CNN said the award capped a “stunning and dramatic case that showcased for the public the real-world harm inflicted by viral conspiracy theories”.
The Sandy Hook falsehoods “form part of a larger body of misinformation and theories for which he has had to apologise”, said The Guardian. They include the “so-called ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy that falsely claimed a Washington DC pizzeria was home to a child sex-abuse ring”.