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Alex Jones was embraced by Donald Trump, Joe Rogan lies years after Sandy Hook

Written by Javed Iqbal

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In the roughly 10 years since he declared the deadliest public school shooting in American history a “gigantic hoax,” Infowars founder Alex Jones has been condemned and the de-platform by tech giants like Facebook, YouTube and Spotify, and faced significant financial shocks. The latest came Thursday, when a jury ruled that Jones must pay $4.1 million in damages to the parents of a 6-year-old boy killed in the Sandy Hook mass shooting after he created a “living hell” for the family.

But as Jones’ false claims and shenanigans launched him into the national political dialogue, his ascension has arguably been bolstered, thanks to Donald Trump and Joe Rogan embracing Jones and championing his ideas to online audiences of millions in recent years .

Jones’ interview with Trump in 2015 offered a window into some of the future president’s talking points at his rallies.

“Your reputation is great,” Trump told Jones at the time.

Jones, who went on “The Joe Rogan Experience” in 2020, allowed him to make false claims about the coronavirus vaccination on Spotify, where he had been banned. A clip split wide on Twitter this week shows how Rogan, whose show has an estimated audience of 11 million per episode, has previously defended Jones as “hilarious” and with entertainment value.

“What is he doing that is so terrible?” Rogan asked. “It’s entertaining!”

Representatives for Trump and Rogan did not immediately respond to requests for comment early Friday.

Alex Jones must pay $4.1 million to Sandy Hook parents, jury rules

The decision by an Austin jury on Thursday means Jones could pay significantly less than the $150 million that Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, sought for comments after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 people, 20 of them young children, dead. It remains to be seen how much Jones, 48, may be ordered to pay in restitution. The jury is expected to return Friday to weigh that amount — an amount that could be significantly higher.

On August 4, Judge Maya Guerra Gamble read an Austin jury’s decision to fine Alex Jones $4.1 million in restitution to Sandy Hook parents. (Video: Travis County 459th District Court)

Shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting, Jones, who has previously promoted conspiracy theories about the Oklahoma City bombing and the 9/11 attacks, falsely claimed that “nobody died” at the school and that the attack was “staged” and “fabricated” by advocates arms control. The statements not only outraged grieving parents, but also led to death threats and assaults from strangers. After Heslin told the jury this week that the false allegations had made his life a “living hell,” Jones admitted in court to the family that the shooting was “100 percent real.”

“Neil and Scarlett are thrilled with the outcome and look forward to spending Mr. Jones’ money,” Mark Bankston, an attorney for the parents, told The Washington Post on Thursday. “With punitive damages still to be determined and several additional defamation cases pending, it is clear that Mr. Jones’ time on the American stage is finally coming to an end.”

His presence on the national stage was heightened when Trump, who became the front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, agreed to be interviewed on Infowars. Trump and Jones said December 2015 interview was arranged by Trump confidant Roger Stone — years later Jones and Stone would be the convention of the House of Representatives Committee investigating the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

“I will not let you down,” Trump told the Infowars founder.

Jones has recognized the impression he appeared to have on Trump, taking credit for introducing the then-candidate to the idea that members of the media were his “enemy.”

“It’s surreal to talk about issues on the air and then, word for word, hear Trump say it two days later,” Jones told his audience at the time.

The connection between Trump and Jones was documented in “United States of Conspiracy,” a 2020 special from PBS’s “Frontline.” One of the lies Jones spread on his show was that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama founded the Islamic State. Trump repeated Jones’ false claim about Clinton and Obama by one of the Republican candidate’s rallies before the 2016 presidential election, according to PBS.During an interview with Fox News, Trump repeated another of Jones’ lies: that the father of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) was connected with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Former Infowars staffers told “Frontline” how Trump apparently using Jones’ false claims as his own was “a super power trip for Alex that was irresistible.”

“Someone in the mainstream — Trump — using the words that Jones had been using for decades, I think it emboldened Jones and it changed him as a person,” said Josh Owens, a former video editor at Infowars.

The support of Trump lifted Jones into the national conversation, as did Fox News host Tucker Carlson hailed Jones as “one of the most popular journalists on the right.” Joe Walsh, the former GOP congressman from Illinois who has since become a vocal critic of Trump and his allies in the Republican Party, noted Twitter this week, how “there really is no difference between Alex Jones and Donald Trump. None.”

But the raised profile also cost Jones. In 2018, Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify were among the platforms to ban all content from Jones and Infowars for violating their hate speech guidelines. After Roku dropped Infowars in 2019, Jones shared a cryptic post on his Instagram account of a tweet from Infowars reporter Owen Shroyer, which featured an artistic banner with Jones’ face looking enraged.

“Knock me down now and I only get more powerful,” Shroyer wrote.

Roku gave Infowars a platform that reached millions. After hours of outrage, it backed up.

In the podcast world, Rogan is one of its leading personalities. Rogan, a lightning rod for controversy who has a huge following, reached a deal with Spotify in 2020 for a reported $100 million for his podcast library.

So when Rogan welcomed Jones to his show October 2020, the Infowars host listed a series of falsehoods surrounding coronavirus safety measures such as vaccination and masking, climate science and the polio vaccine. During the three-hour performance, Rogan also referenced Jones’ lies about the Sandy Hook shooting.

“We all know you have [messed] some things, right?” Rogan told Jones in 2020, specifically mentioning Sandy Hook. “But you got so many things right. That’s why I keep talking to you about these things, and that’s why I defend you, and why I think it’s … dangerous to censor you.”

In response to the backlash that followed, Rogan defended having Jones on his show. Rogan continued Instagram that he fact-checked “every single crazy thing he said” and that “they were all verified.”

“I knew people would criticize the content of the podcast without even listening, and I was right,” Rogan wrote. “He said a lot of crazy but accurate things, and that’s what I’ve been saying about him for years.”

Although Spotify banned Jones and Infowars from its platforms, company executives also defended the reservation, writing in an internal email how “it’s important to have diverse voices and viewpoints on our platform,” according to BuzzFeed News. Rogan found himself under fire in early 2022 for controversies surrounding misinformation about the coronavirus and the many previous instances where the host used the n-word.

A spokesperson for Spotify did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rogan’s supporters have also taken an interest in Jones. On Save your, users on the subreddit dedicated to Rogan have flooded the forum with posts about Jones and clips from the defamation case. While some on Reddit are tired of reading about the one-time guest from Rogan, others can’t get enough.

“Alex Jones spews FACTS!” wrote one follower.

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Javed Iqbal

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