Shortly before his controversial interview with NBC's Megyn Kelly was due to air on Sunday, pro-Trump media figure and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones released a video statement to the parents of children who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook massacre.
The one-minute video features Jones speaking directly to camera and offering his "sincere condolences" to the victims' parents.
"Parents should never have to bury their own children," Jones says in the video.
However, he did not apologize for repeatedly claiming the massacre was staged and the children killed were actors.
Instead, Jones used the video to invite the parents of those killed to contact him to "open a dialogue...instead of letting the MSM [mainstream media] misrepresent things and really try to drive this nation apart."
Sandy Hook has become the major focus of the controversy surrounding Kelly's decision to interview Jones and give him a platform for his views. Jones has for years repeatedly made claims that the shooting, in which 20 children and six adults died, was a "total hoax."
The NBC network television station in Connecticut will not air the interview, citing the concerns of its staff, viewers, and the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School victims.
Jones' public position on Sandy Hook has been inconsistent since the tragedy. In January of 2013 — not long after the shooting — he said on air that "in the last month and a half, I have not come out and said this was clearly a staged event. Unfortunately, evidence is beginning to come out that points more and more in that direction.”
The fallout from the comment caused Jones to take a slightly different tack. When pressured, he often notes that his quotes were taken out of context, saying instead that he believed the tragedy happened but that it was staged.
By 2015, as The Guardian pointed out, Jones' rhetoric shifted considerably. “Sandy Hook is synthetic, completely fake, with actors; in my view, manufactured," Jones said. "I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids, and it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors.”
A number of the parents of Sandy Hook victims directly blame Jones' rhetoric for a rash of death threats, harassment, and psychological trauma that has been inflicted on them by trolls and conspiracy theorists.
Just this month, a Florida woman was arrested and convicted of sending death threats to the parent of a Sandy Hook victim. In a Washington Post op-ed, Nelba L. Márquez-Greene, who lost her 6-year-old daughter, Anna Grace, wrote, "I cannot begin to describe the pain of experiencing death threats and harassment on top of mourning the loss of a beloved family member. Five years after the Sandy Hook shooting, we receive emails weekly suggesting that our daughter did not die."
Jones has attempted to run away from his past remarks. This April, at a press conference outside an Austin courthouse, Jones told reporters that his Sandy Hook statements were him "playing devil's advocate," despite numerous public quotes that contradict that argument. In the teaser trailer for Kelly's interview, Jones appeared to make the same case.
Using a common tactic, in which he plays the victim, Jones spent the week deflecting the blame on to Megyn Kelly. Earlier this week, he called for NBC to pull the interview, suggesting it was unfairly edited to make him look like a monster. Jones alleged that the interview air date — Father's Day — was also unfair to the families of Sandy Hook victims. Jones argues — and a leaked pre-interview between Jones and Kelly appears to back this up — that NBC told him the interview would air in July, not June.
Which makes Jones' decision to release a video statement on Father's Day all the more audacious and — to those who've lost loved ones — profoundly insensitive. "On a weekend that honors dads, showcasing Jones — a man who has denied that our children were murdered — shows a breathtaking lack of sensitivity," Márquez-Greene wrote in the Washington Post.
Charlie Warzel is a senior writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Warzel reports on and writes about the intersection of tech and culture.
Contact Charlie Warzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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