“I never saw her without a smile,” recalled Amy Seaver. “I believe she had the children’s best intentions [in mind] all the time. She was always looking out for them.”
Seaver, then mother to a first grader at Sandy Hook Elementary, was sharing her thoughts on the school’s principal, Dawn Hochsprung. On Dec. 14, 2012, Hochsprung sacrificed her life by lunging at gunman Adam Lanza in an attempt to stop his vicious shooting spree. When all was said and done, 20 young children and six adults lay dead.
Enter Alex Jones, the rotund host of the conspiracy-theory program Infowars. His greatest hits include: believing the U.S. government was behind the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing; accusing the Bush administration of orchestrating the 9/11 attacks; and his General Jack D. Ripper-esque theory that the government is poisoning our drinking water via fluoridation in order to turn straight people gay.
Jones also spent much of the election boasting of his advisership role to Donald Trump, who appeared on Jones’s Infowars program in the early days of his presidential campaign and showered praise on the loon, proclaiming: “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.” And on Saturday, Jones posted a video to YouTube claiming that President-elect Trump had given him a call to thank him for his help, and that he’d “be on [Infowars] in the next few weeks” to thank his audience personally. For those keeping track, yes, Trump called a 9/11 truther before he phoned the Pentagon.
“Sandy Hook is a synthetic completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured,” said Jones. “I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids. And it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors.” (There is absolutely no evidence to support this.)
And on his program Thursday, Jones doubled down on several of his thoroughly debunked Sandy Hook conspiracy theories, including: that CNN’s Anderson Cooper “was using a green screen” to report on the shooting, that Sandy Hook Elementary was “closed years before” the shooting, and that “weird videos” exist of parents fake-grieving.
Erica Lafferty, daughter of the late Sandy Hook hero Dawn Hochsprung, has had enough of Jones’s sick exploitation of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
“On Alex Jones, this is a man who for nearly four years now has put great effort into making not only my family and not only the 25 other victims’ families but the entire town of Newtown miserable, and to degrade and disregard the hurt, anguish, and pain that we have to live with every day by claiming that it was a conspiracy theory and a hoax,” she tells The Daily Beast.“Honestly, I would love to have him at my house on Thanksgiving. I would love for him to come and sit in the chair where my mother would be sitting and have to look at my nieces and nephews in the eye and explain to them why grandma can’t be there. If he actually had to experience something like that, his ideas and conspiracy-theory rhetoric would change significantly.”
In an Aug. 25 speech railing against the “alt-right,” Hillary Clinton criticized Trump’s deeply troubling alliance with Jones. And on Oct. 16, her campaign released an anti-Trump ad targeting Trump’s cozy relationship with the conspiracy theorist.
Lafferty, who served as a Clinton surrogate during her White House run, is also appalled by Trump’s close ties to Jones.
“As far as our now president-elect praising Alex Jones, calling his reputation ‘amazing,’ and telling him he’s not going to let him down, it is absolutely unacceptable,” she says. “This is a man who, in the wake of the next mass shooting, is going to have to address the nation and comfort those families. I cannot imagine what it would be like for me—having gone through this election and seen all the hateful things Trump has supported, heard all the derogatory things he’s said about gun violence, and witnessed all the conspiracy theories he’s pushed—to walk into that room in the wake of the shooting and see Donald Trump instead of President Obama. I don’t know that that’s a man I would be able to respect if he’s standing on the side of people like Alex Jones.”
She continues: “I have put great effort into not paying attention to anything that Alex Jones does because it’s not worth my time, effort, or energy. But I think it’s imperative that the president-elect does not associate with people like Alex Jones because, as the child of a mother who was murdered in a mass shooting in an elementary school, it’s disgusting, and it’s degrading, and I expect a lot more from a president than that.”
While President-elect Trump has flip-flopped on nearly every major issue over the years, the one subject he’s been remarkably consistent on is guns. According to his campaign website, Trump wants to bring concealed carry to all 50 states as well as abolish any and all gun and magazine restrictions, stating “the government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own.” He is, unsurprisingly, heavily backed by the National Rifle Association, which spent $30 million on anti-Clinton and pro-Trump ads over the course of the presidential election.
“I think a lot of his gun comments are just wiped under the rug,” says Lafferty. “Specifically, to say that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any votes is absolutely disgusting and degrading to all survivors of gun violence across the country, and that definitely didn’t have enough attention paid to it. Like so many of the outrageous things he does and says, people just say, oh, here’s a reality star doing what he does, but the fact of the matter is presidents are held to a higher standard than reality-TV stars, and he’s going to need to learn that.
This December 14th will mark four years since the Sandy Hook massacre. One of the things that’s helped Lafferty cope with her mother’s passing is her work on behalf of gun control groups, including Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety.
“I’d like to say that it has gotten easier, but I don’t think that’s a fair assessment. You just kind of learn to live with the new reality that has been forced upon you,” she offers. “Myself and many others in my family have taken on the fight of gun violence prevention and that has been very therapeutic for me. I work with Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety has been my guiding light for the past three and a half years. I don’t know where I’d be without them. All I can do is wake up every day and try to do the next best thing.”