In a pretrial hearing defending InfoWars founder Alex Jones, lawyer Randall Wilhite argued to Texas Judge Orlinda Naranjo that his client should retain custody of his children, saying Jones is a “performance artist” who is “playing a character” on his radio and internet TV show.
If his defense is true, Leonard Pozner believes Jones’ decades-long performance has destroyed too many lives—including his own.
“I wish I could be there in the courtroom to stare him down to remind him of how he’s throwing salt on a wound, and so he can remember how he handed out salt for other people to throw on mine,” said Pozner.
Pozner’s 6-year-old son, Noah, was one of 20 children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. Six staff members also died in the shooting. Since then, he and his family have been the target of a conspiracy theory, fueled most prominently by Jones and InfoWars, that the shooting never really happened, and that the 20 dead children were actually “crisis actors” planted by the United States government in a false flag operation to drum up support for stricter gun control laws.
Since the massacre in 2012, Jones’ site repeatedly ran stories with headlines like “Mystery: Sandy Hook Victim Dies (Again) In Pakistan” and “College Professor Says ‘Crisis Actors’ May Have Played Part If Sandy Hook Was Indeed a Hoax.”
In November, Jones released a “final statement” on Sandy Hook, where Jones said, “All I know is the official story of Sandy Hook has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.”
Jones’ name trended on Twitter in the United States on Monday, but he didn’t reference the ongoing trial on InfoWars’ livestream that afternoon.
But in Jones’ pretrial hearing, his lawyer argued that judging Jones based on his InfoWars persona “would be like judging Jack Nicholson in a custody dispute based on his performance as the Joker in ‘Batman.’”
The effects of the stories, even if rooted in fiction—as Jones’ lawyers will try to convince a jury this week—have real and devastating consequences. Pozner has been inundated with threats and harassment from conspiracy theorists insistent that his son was never alive to begin with. Last year, a Florida Atlantic University professor sent the couple a certified letter demanding proof that Noah ever existed. (The professor, James Tracy, was subsequently fired.)
Pozner said he’s talked to guests on InfoWars’ radio show who confessed that Jones is playing a part, but that he’d “never seen (an admission) this overt” that Jones was playing a part stated by one of his representatives.
“I’ve heard it said before Jones is playing a character. ‘That’s showbusiness,’ one of his guests told me,” said Pozner. “That’s why he makes millions of dollars spinning conspiracy theories and sensationalizing mass casualty events and geopolitical crises.”
Jones is seeking to retain full custody of his children in a divorce case that will take place in Austin, where Jones lives and where InfoWars is headquartered, over the next two weeks. Jones’ ex-wife, Kelly Jones, says the InfoWars creator is “not a stable person” and is seeking custody of their 9-year-old and 12-year-old daughters. According to the American-Statesman, Kelly Jones says Alex “broadcasts from home” and “the children are there, watching him broadcast.”
Pozner, for one, agrees with Jones’s lawyers defense, that the InfoWars host is playing a character, creating conspiracies for show. Pozner points to one video about Sandy Hook victims “dying again” that he had removed from YouTube.
“He spent a day or two ranting and raving about me and complaining. It’s really evident to see that he’s acting in that particular episode of the show. He’s tugging on his tie. He’s very uncomfortable. Most of it sounded like a teenager lying in front you,” said Pozner, who founded the HONR Network, which provides support for victims affected by mass shooting conspiracies.
Still, Jones’ conspiracy radio show has earned him millions of fans, including the President of the United States himself. Trump went on that very same radio show in December of 2015 to commend Jones’ work, telling the InfoWars host that “your reputation is amazing” and “I will not let you down.”
On the very same day of Trump’s interview, InfoWars ran an article insinuating the San Bernardino shooting was also a false flag, before claiming that it was a “false flag for the Obama anti-gun agenda” five days later.
Jones’s lawyers will spend the next two weeks trying to convince a jury that his radio show is a particularly realistic, if cruel, public performance in front of reporters in an Austin courtroom. So does Pozner believe repeated tacit admissions that Jones is performing as a “Joker”-like character will make any difference to his 2-million subscribers on YouTube alone?
“No, of course not. This is how they’re going to hear it: ‘The message is important, the conspiracies are real. I act like a lunatic because it gets people’s attention.’ That would be my guess,” said Pozner.
“Alex is going to say something like, ‘Well, the conspiracy message that I’m delivering is important. My on-air personality that screams, shakes fists, makes animal noises? That’s part of my animated persona.’”