Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has apologized to a Washington, D.C., restaurant owner for disseminating a conspiracy theory that motivated one of his fans to open fire inside the Comet Ping Pong pizza joint.
In a video published on Friday, the man the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “certainly the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America” addresses Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis and says, “In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate, I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him.”
Jones — who believes that the September 11 attacks, Oklahoma City bombing, Sandy Hook school shooting, and Boston Marathon bombings were all inside jobs — acknowledges there’s no evidence supporting the notion that Comet Ping Pong is or ever was at the center of a pedophilia ring involving some of Hillary Clinton’s closest aides.
“To my knowledge today, neither Mr. Alefantis, nor his restaurant Comet Ping Pong, were involved in any human trafficking as was part of the theories about Pizzagate that were being written about in the media outlets and which we commented upon,” Jones said. “I want our viewers and listeners to know that we regret any negative impact our commentaries may have had on Mr. Alefantis, Comet Ping Pong, or its employees. We apologize to the extent our commentaries could be considered as negative statements about Mr. Alefantis or Comet Ping Pong, and we hope that anyone else involved in commenting on Pizzagate will do the same thing.”
Jones’ apology comes after Alefantis sent him a letter asking him to retract statements he made about Pizzagate on his broadcasts. It also came on the same day that 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch, of Salisbury, North Carolina, agreed to a plea deal in connection with firing a rifle in Comet Ping Pong. In the text of the deal, which could land him in prison for three years or more, Welch acknowledges that his actions were “motivated, at least in part, by unfounded rumors about a child sex-trafficking ring… that involved nationally-known political figures.”
Welch says he became interested in Pizzagate “principally by watching YouTube videos and reviewing related internet content.” Days after the shooting incident, Welch told the New York Times that he’s a listener of Jones’ show. The criminal complaint suggests Jones shared Pizzagate content from Jones’ Infowars website.
Media Matters reports that following Welch’s arrest, Infowars “scrubbed some Pizzagate-related content from its website and YouTube, including a video posted before the Comet incident in which Jones told his listeners to personally ‘investigate’ the conspiracy theory.”
Welch told authorities he traveled from North Carolina to Comet Ping Pong to “self-investigate” the Pizzagate conspiracy. Unsurprisingly, his investigation turned up no evidence that the restaurant is anything more than a restaurant.
“The intel on this wasn’t 100 percent,” Welch told the Times following his arrest, though he wouldn’t outright dismiss that there is some validity to Pizzagate.
A Comet Ping Pong employee who spoke to ThinkProgress following the incident said the restaurant was getting “30 to 40 calls a day about this bullshit.”
“If this doesn’t stop someone is going to get killed,” they said. “These people are angry, and they think we’re raping children so they feel justified saying anything to us.”
Jones may now admit that there’s nothing to Pizzagate, but on Friday, Michael Flynn Jr. — son of and former chief of staff for President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn — suggested that there might be a link between missing girls in D.C. and Pizzgate.
Have u seen a police rpt?
WTF IS GOING IN DC??#missingdcgirls
— Michael Flynn Jr🇺🇸 (@mflynnJR) March 24, 2017
During the presidential transition, Flynn Jr. had an official government transition email address, which indicates he had a formal role. Trump transition officials quickly distanced themselves from Flynn Jr. when his propensity to spread conspiracy theories on social media came under scrutiny.
Trump himself appeared on Jones’ radio in December 2015, with the then-presidential candidate telling the conspiracy theorist, “Your reputation is amazing… I won’t let you down.”
In August, Jones claimed on his radio show that he was advising Trump about “election fraud.” Jones said Trump took him seriously. According to Jones, Trump “already concurred and absolutely was on the same page and was already right there with me or even ahead of me.”
Indeed, in recent months, Trump has pushed a baseless conspiracy theory that millions of illegal votes were cast during a presidential election in which he received millions of votes less than Hillary Clinton.
During a Time magazine interview conducted Wednesday, Trump defended his voter fraud conspiracy, saying, “Well I think I will be proved right about that too.”