The legal bills are mounting for America’s most infamous conspiracy theorist.
A week ago, the Infowars host descended upon Washington, D.C. to deliver a speech on the two separate defamation lawsuits being leveled against him. But now, another pair of lawsuits have been filed against him — which, like the previous two, say that Jones’ mix of misinformation and conspiracy theories has led to death threats and harassment.
The newest lawsuits were filed late on Monday morning by the parents of two children who died in the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings. Neil Heslin lost his six-year-old son in the massacre, as did Leonard Pozner and his wife Veronique De La Rosa.
Since then, they have been consistently harassed by those who believe that the parents were lying about the massacre and were “crisis actors” who helped stage the shooting. Alex Jones was instrumental in helping to popularize this theory and has repeatedly refused to back away from it.
“Even after these folks had to experience this trauma, for the next five years they were tormented by Alex Jones with vicious lies about them,” lawyer Mark Bankston told the Huffington Post. Each suit is seeking more than $1 million in damages from Jones, Infowars, and Free Speech Systems LLC, the company that owns Infowars.
Bankston, of the law firm Farrar & Ball, is also involved in one of the earlier lawsuits filed against Jones. In February, Marcel Fontaine, 24, was incorrectly identified by Infowars as the school shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. Like the Sandy Hook parents, he is seeking $1 million in damages for the harassment he has suffered from Jones spreading fake news about him.
In March, another suit was filed by Brennan Gilmore, who filmed the moment when James Alex Fields crashed his car into a crowd of protesters at Charlottesville, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 more. Gilmore was then accused by Infowars of being a “Deep State” plant which led to trolling, death threats, and harassment.
Jones, naturally, maintains that all of these lawsuits are part of a George Soros-orchestrated plot to destroy free speech. “Vexatious lawsuits like [Gilmore’s] are dangerous because they seek to chip away at our cherished First Amendment rights,” Jones’ lawyer Andrew Grossman said last week.
But nonetheless, the lawsuits represent a real problem for Infowars. Neither Bankston nor Georgetown Law’s Civil Rights Clinic (which is representing Gilmore) have any intention of settling out of court, as Jones has done previously. In May 2017, for instance, he was forced to retract claims against the Greek yogurt maker Chobani as part of a defamation settlement for claiming the company employed “Migrant Rapists.”
“Certain statements were made on the Infowars, Twitter feed and YouTube channel regarding Chobani LLC that I now understand to be wrong” Jones said. “On behalf of Infowars, I regret that we mischaracterized Chobani, its employees and the people of Twin Falls, Idaho, the way we did.”
But the new lawsuits hope to establish a “legal precedent” by which the First Amendment can’t be used as an excuse to incite harassment and violence online against private citizens.
While the millions in damages being sought are unlikely to completely bankrupt Infowars, they would represent a significant blow to the network, especially with advertisers fleeing the Infowars channel and YouTube warning that it could be permanently suspended.
Jones’ laundry list of legal headaches doesn’t end with lawsuits. In February, the Daily Mail revealed that two former employees of Infowars had filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that Jones used racist and anti-Semitic language against them and tried to groom one for sexual exploitation.
“Alex often spent his time shirtless, and endlessly leering, with or without a shirt, at female guests and employees,” the document read. “[It created] a disgusting, hostile environment.”