Disinformation and Defamation: Alex Jones and the Sandy Hook Massacre

Intentional and Reckless Falsehood

First Amendment Issue #2

In a defamation case, a plaintiff must first demonstrate in court that the statements in question were defamatory and objectively false. Next, the plaintiff must provide evidence of harm, detailing how the defamatory statements caused actual injury. 

Apply the First Amendment

Divide the class into three group to participate in the following exercise based on Tables 1, 2, and 3. While this is not a complete list of the events associated with the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, nor a complete list of all of Alex Jones’s statements, the tables illustrate some of the evidence available to Jones before and after his misstatements. Do the events bolster the plaintiffs’ allegations of intentional falsehood and their claim of harm?

  • Group 1. Ask the first group to read and discuss Table 1 that details the evidence of the false claims. Invite them to report back to the group sharing their assessment of whether the statements were defamatory and objectively false. 
  • Group 2. Ask the second group to read and discuss Table 2 that provides a timeline of Jones’ statements. Ask the group to present to the class their thoughts on whether this timeline illustrates  Jones’ intentional dismissal of documentary and other evidence.
  • Group 3. Ask the third group to read and discuss Table 3 that lists the actual harm these statements had on the Sandy Hook families. Invite them to present to the class their thoughts on whether the parents experienced actual injury as a result of Jones’ defamatory statements.

Table 1. Evidence of False Claims

False ClaimsVerified Facts
1.a. The so-called massacre was a “giant hoax,” a “false flag,” and the school was “a cut-out” facade and digital green-screens were used to stage the event. It was an “inside job” a “drill, a giant piece of theater” staged by the government.
1.b. Twenty children and six adults were murdered by Adam Lanza on Dec. 14, 2012 in the actual school building at Sandy Hook Elementary.
2.a. FBI’s website confirmed that there were “no murders” and that 16 Connecticut state troopers lied under oath and paramedics were not allowed to enter the school.
2.b. The 146 reported murders in Connecticut that year included the 27 victims of the Newtown massacre. The paramedics were allowed into school after the massacre.
3.a. The gun was in a locked car trunk, “proof” there was no murder, and that the deaths were faked.

3.b. The shotgun found in the car was one of four guns that Lanza brought to the scene.

4.a. “Everything was staged.” The parents worked for “Homeland Security as crisis actors to promote Obama’s attack on the 2nd Amendment.” And “faking their children’s death” was a way to “steal money from hard-working Americans.” Jones said, "I’ve watched a lot of soap operas, and I’ve seen actors before... And I know when I’m watching a movie and when I’m watching something real.”

4.b. None of the parents are actors. None of the parents were hired by Homeland Security as "crisis actors."

5.a. The interviews were fake. The government gave a parent a card to read from during a press conference immediately after the shooting. Another parent broke character in an interview and was seen laughing and smiling when talking about the alleged school shooting. "Folks, we’ve got video of Anderson Cooper with clear blue-screen out there. He’s not there in the town square. We got people clearly coming up and laughing and then doing the fake crying."

5.b. The father was not reading from any cards and the government did not write such a card. The mother being interviewed was recalling fond memories of her child being joyful, not celebrating her daughter’s death. Anderson Cooper's interview was not digitally altered or filmed before a blue-screen.

6.a. The school was closed and then demolished. “The general public doesn’t know the school was actually closed the year before. They don’t know they’ve sealed it all, demolished the building. They don’t know that they had the kids going in circles in and out of the building as a photo-op. Blue-screen, green-screens, they got caught using.”

6.b. There is no evidence of the Sandy Hook Elementary School being closed the year before the shooting or the building ever being demolished.

7.a. The Sandy Hook Family Fund was “actively engaging in FRAUD by soliciting donations from the public for a murder victim who is still alive.”

7.a. The Sandy Hook Family Fund was “actively engaging in FRAUD by soliciting donations from the public for a murder victim who is still alive.”

8.a. A child’s death certificate was fabricated.

8.b. A court ruled against one of Jones’s followers that this claim was false, and a jury awarded the parent $450,000 in damages for this act of defamation.

Table 2. Evidence of Intentional Falsehood, Ignoring Evidence

Sandy Hook Masacre

Twenty children and six adults were murdered by Adam Lanza on December 14, 2012 in the actual school building at Sandy Hook Elementary. The New York Times publishes a detailed account of the shooting and ABC News posted a complete list of the victims’ names and ages. On December 16, President Obama speaks at an interfaith vigil in Newtown, offering “the love and prayers of a nation.”

December 14–16, 2012

Infowars Embeds Video

On its website, InfoWars embeds a video entitled “Sandy Hook Shooting Exposed As a Fraud.” After being widely distributed, YouTube removed the video for violating its policy on harassment and bullying.

December 19, 2012

James Fretzer's Interview

InfoWars publishes an interview with James Fetzer, a former professor who alleged the parents of the victims were “crisis actors” employed by the government.

January 8, 2013

Connecticut School Shooting Reports

The Connecticut State Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection releases its compilation of official reports on the Sandy Hook massacre. In referencing the “tens of thousands” of hours spent investigating this crime, Commissioner Bradford wrote, “The investigation of this incident is unparalleled in the one hundred and ten year history of the Connecticut State Police.”

December 13, 2013

Jones Accuses CNN

Jones accuses CNN’s Anderson Cooper of “faking” an interview with one of the victim’s parents, who he alleges is a “crisis actor.”

March 24, 2014

Jones Again Accuses CNN

Jones again repeats the claim that Anderson Cooper’s CNN interview was “faked.”

July 7, 2015

Jones Again Accuses CNN

Jones goes on a 20-minute rant on InfoWars, once again claiming the Cooper interview was “faked.”

November 17, 2016

Jones Holds Press Conference

Jones holds a press conference, saying that Sandy Hook was a “false flag” planted by the U.S. government.

April 28, 2017

FBI Releases 1,500 Documents

The FBI releases more than 1,500 pages of documents related to the Sandy Hook mass killings.

October 24, 2017

Texas Defamation Suit Filed

Two Sandy Hook parents file a defamation suit against Jones and InfoWars in a Texas District Court, where InfoWars is incorporated.

April 16, 2018

Connecticut Defamation Suit Filed

Six Sandy Hook families file a defamation suit against Jones, InfoWars, and seven others in the State of Connecticut Superior Court.

June 26, 2018

Jones’s Deposition

Lawyers release video of Jones’s deposition in which he blames his statements on the media for “anomalies” in their reporting.

March 29, 2019

Fetzer found Guilty

A jury finds James Fetzer, the former professor who assisted Jones in spreading disinformation, guilty of defamation and awards the parent $450,000 in damages.

October 16, 2019

Table 3. Evidence of Harm

1. Forced into Hiding. A family was forced to move homes seven times after sustained harassment due to their changing addresses routinely published online.

2. Privacy Violations: Wolfgang Halbig, Infowars contributor, former police officer, and former school administrator, was arrested for unlawful possession of personal information because he published a Sandy Hook parent’s credit report and home address, knowing that the parents were living in hiding. With public encouragement from Jones, Halbig raised over $100,000 on GoFundMe.com to “investigate” the Sandy Hook parents.

3. Videotaping Children: Infowars sent a camera crew with Wolfgang Halbig during his visits to Newtown. In one such incident, Halbig and the Infowars crew videotaped children entering and exiting the St. Rose church. The church banning Halbig and the film crew from the property.

 4. Hostile Confrontations: The Sandy Hook parents faced a “sustained barrage” of verbal assault and physical confrontations.

5. Online Harassment: The parents faced a “sustained barrage” of online harassment. For instance, an email was sent demanding a parent “exhume” their child’s body and “prove to the world you lost your son.”

6. Death Threats: Lucy Richards was sentenced to prison for threatening to kill a Sandy Hook parent. She was primarily motivated by what she learned on Infowars, her defense lawyer said.

7. Suicide: On March 26, 2019, Jeremy Richman, one of the plaintiffs in the Connecticut defamation case, was found dead in an apparent suicide. He was the father Aville, a six-year-old girl who was murdered in the Sandy Hook shooting.

Your Progress
Complete: 2 of 4 First Amendment Issues