Controversial talk show host Alex Jones to seek dismissal of lawsuit by Sandy Hook parents
In addition to the lawsuit in Texas, Jones faces a civil case in Connecticut
Lawyers for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones were due to ask a Texas court today to dismiss a lawsuit filed by parents of two children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre who are accusing him of slander, according to court papers.
The lawsuit is against Jones and his InfoWars website.
Jones, who lives in Travis County, Texas, has used his media platform to call the 2012 mass shooting, which occurred at the Connecticut elementary school and left 26 people dead, a hoax. He suggested a political coverup took place by left-wing forces seeking to take advantage of the shooting to support their causes, such as gun control.
In 2013, he called the massacre "staged" and continued to stoke his conspiracy theory for years.
"Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake, with actors, in my view, manufactured," he said in a January 2015 broadcast.
Although his theory is false, people who believe Jones have for years harassed and taunted families of the victims, court papers showed and the families have said.
The lawsuits, filed in April by Leonard Pozner, Veronique De La Rosa and Neil Heslin, seek at least $1 million in damages. Each claims Jones repeatedly asserted the Sandy Hook shootings were staged, and that the parents were liars and frauds who helped in a coverup, according to court documents.
Jones cites potential chilling effect
Some families said they have been subjected to death threats and forced to move several times to escape harassment.
A Florida woman received a prison sentence last year after leaving Pozner some threatening email and voice messages, which included telling him the mass shooting was a hoax.
Jones will seek to have the lawsuit dismissed under a Texas law designed to protect free speech rights against unwarranted attacks, court papers showed.
In written arguments, Jones's lawyers argue he was acting as a journalist in the tradition of famed Watergate journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in questioning the official narrative of the Connecticut shooting.
Jones, who says he now believes the shootings happened, says such journalism would be chilled if "reporters were subject to liability if they turned out to be wrong."
The parents have said Jones has engaged in a campaign of "false, cruel, and dangerous assertions," court filings showed.
A gunman killed 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012. It ranks among the five deadliest mass shootings by a single gunman in U.S. history.
Facebook last week suspended Jones from its social network for bullying and hate speech, after YouTube removed four of his videos.
Since founding Infowars in 1999, Jones has built a vast audience. In addition to a huge internet presence, his daily show is heard across 160 radio stations in the U.S. He has also promoted a theory that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington were staged by the government.
The lawsuits in Texas were the first defamation cases brought by parents of Sandy Hook victims against Jones. He is also facing civil action in Connecticut in lawsuits by additional Sandy Hook parents.
With files from CBC News and The Associated Press