NBC will still air Megyn Kelly’s interview with extremist conspiracy theorist Alex Jones despite public outcry and the pullout of a major advertiser.
Kelly, formerly of Fox News, interviewed Jones for her new NBC show, Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly. The interview is scheduled to air this Sunday as the third episode of the program.
The idea of giving Jones a mainstream platform to air his views particularly enraged survivors of the children and school staff killed in 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which he has said was staged by the Obama administration to build support for gun control. Kelly has been disinvited from hosting a benefit, scheduled for Wednesday in Washington, D.C., for the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, which works for gun regulations, CNN Money reports. And JPMorgan Chase has pulled its ads from all NBC News programming until after the interview airs.
Jones’s statements about Sandy Hook are his most infamous, along with his allegation that the U.S. government played a part in the 9/11 attacks. But he has made many other bizarre and defamatory claims via his Infowars website, radio show, and YouTube videos.
He has alleged that a D.C. pizza restaurant was headquarters for a child sex-trafficking ring run by Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta. He backed off that claim after the restaurant’s owner sued him. Before he did so, though, a believer in the theory fired shots inside the establishment.
Although he says he is not antigay, he has used homophobic slurs against Congressman Adam Schiff, a critic of Donald Trump; Jones is a major Trump supporter. He also threatened Schiff with physical violence — a threat Jones later dismissed as an “art performance.” His lawyers made similar characterizations of his work during a recent child custody case brought by his ex-wife, which she won.
He regularly posits that “globalists” — consisting of mainstream media, government employees, politicians, and corporations — are trying to usurp U.S. sovereignty and bring Trump down. He interviewed Trump during the presidential campaign, and he has hosted other national politicians, including U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.
Kelly and NBC have both defended the show, in the face of angry comments from families of the Sandy Hook victims.
“Nelba Márquez-Greene, whose daughter was killed in the shooting, tweeted several photos of her daughter and wrote, ‘Here you go @megynkelly - her name is Ana Grace Márquez-Greene. Say her name- stare at this & tell me it’s worth it,’” CNN Money reports.
And Cristina Hassinger, the daughter of the school’s principal, tweeted, “This piece of actual garbage encourages people to call my mom’s death a hoax and harass other Sandy Hook families. Shame on you @megynkelly.”
Kelly released a statement via Twitter saying she found Jones’s Sandy Hook theory “as personally revolting as every other rational person does,” but added, “It left me, and many other Americans, asking the very question that prompted this interview: How does Jones, who traffics in these outrageous conspiracy theories, have the respect of the president of the United States and a growing audience of millions?”
And Kelly’s executive producer, Liz Cole, told CNN Money viewers should wait to see the interview before judging it. “Megyn does a strong interview,” she said. “We're not just giving him a platform. … Giving him a platform would mean he goes unchallenged, and that's not the case in any way.”
Jones, meanwhile, has denounced Kelly and said the interview should not air because it misrepresents his views on Sandy Hook. In a video posted to his website and YouTube, he contended that he has always acknowledged people died there — although he believes the numbers may have been exaggerated — and that in calling it a hoax, he was playing “devil’s advocate.”
But as Media Matters reports, he has a long history of asserting that the tragedy was “a giant hoax.” In 2013, he said the shooting was “staged,” adding, “It’s got inside job written all over it.” The following year, he said, “The general public doesn’t know the school was actually closed the year before. [It was not.] 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. … It took me about a year with Sandy Hook to come to grips with the fact that the whole thing was fake.”