Amid an onslaught of pleas and threats from concerned viewers, NBC aired Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly‘s interview with controversial InfoWars host Alex Jones. And, as expected, the conversation turned to many of Jones’ more outrageous conspiracy theories, including his claims that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 was a hoax.
When asked about it, Jones initially attempted to backtrack on his theories about Sandy Hook, but he continuously followed them with a “but…”
“At that point — and I do think there’s some cover-up and some manipulation, that’s what I believe — but then I was also going at devil’s advocate, but then we know there’s mass shootings and these things happen,” he said. “Listeners and other people are covering this. I didn’t create that story….I will sit there on the air and look at every position and play devil’s advocate.”
When Kelly asked him outright if he was intending to play devil’s advocate when he declared “the whole thing was fake” in 2014, he responded, “Yes, because I remember even that day saying, ‘But then some of it looks like it’s real.’ But then, what do you do when they’ve got the kids circling in and out of the building with their hands up? I’ve watched the footage and it looks like a drill.” Later, he added, “I tend to believe that children really did die there. But then you look at all the other evidence on the other side, I could see how other people believe that nobody died there.”
“Of course, there is no evidence on the other side,” Kelly said in the voiceover that followed.
In the most heartbreaking moment of the segment, Kelly spoke with Neil Heslin, the father of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, who died in the Sandy Hook shooting. “It’s disrespectful to me, when in fact I did lose my son, and the 26 other families that lost someone, and I take that very personal,” he said, referring to Jones’ conspiracy theories. When asked how he felt about the Jones interview airing on Father’s Day, Heslin responded, “I think he’s blessed to have his children to spend the day with, to speak to. I don’t have that.”
Many people, including families of the children killed in the massacre, urged NBC not to air the Jones interview, not to offer him a greater platform for his rhetoric. The local Connecticut NBC affiliate did not air it.
“Whenever there is news regarding the Sandy Hook tragedy, we know that the pain resurfaces for our community, our viewers and for you, our colleagues at WVIT,” the station said in a memo distributed internally. “Over the last few days, we have listened intently to Sandy Hook parents, our viewers and importantly, to you. We have considered the deep emotions from the wounds of that day that have yet to heal. Because those wounds are understandably still so raw, we have decided not to air this week’s episode of Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly.”
“What I think we’re doing is journalism,” Kelly said last week. “The bottom line is that while it’s not always popular, it’s important. I would submit to you that neither I nor NBC News has elevated Alex Jones in any way. He’s been elevated by 5 or 6 million viewers or listeners, and by the president of the United States. As you know, journalists don’t get the choice over who has power or influence in our country.”
During the interview, Jones downplayed his relationship with the Trump, saying they were “friendly” but not friends and refusing to quantify the frequency of their communication.
Later, Kelly grilled Jones about his apology earlier this year to Chobani and its founder, Hamdi Ulukaya, for accusing the company of the sexual assault of a child and a rise in tuberculosis. The retraction statement only came after the yogurt purveyor sued InfoWars.
“They chose to go after me and so I simply pointed out that we were reporting other people’s reports that were not entirely accurate and for that we were sorry. Because it’s true.”
“You don’t sound very sorry,” Kelly responded. “You said things about Chobani and its owner that were not true. Are you sorry?”
“What the media did, and we know it was the media and we have the P.I.s and the law firms and we’re working on it right now. Let’s just say that Chobani was real happy to get out of that lawsuit.”
Asked if he considers himself a journalist, Jones responded, “I have some journalists that work for me…and I understand the basis of it.”
“Ninety-five percent of what we cover is looking at a news article and then discussing it,” he explained.
“If you just look at an article and discuss it, it’s garbage in, garbage out,” Kelly informed him. “If you haven’t ascertained the veracity of that article, and it’s all B.S. and you spend two hours talking about it, then you put out misinformation.”
Similarly, Jones’ employee, Owen Shroyer, was asked if he thought of himself as a journalist. “I don’t like calling it that,” he said. “I’m just a human. I’m just a human that’s looking for truth. So I’m trying to reach out and be what the people want.” People? “The deporables, the flyover country, the forgotten Americans.”
Ahead of its airing, Jones urged the network to release the raw recording of his interview with Kelly, threatening that if they did not share at least 100 minutes of their conversations, he would release more than eight hours of secretly recorded audio and footage of Kelly and her team. During a rant posted on Saturday evening, he referred to Kelly, NBC News, and Tom Brokaw as “frauds.”
On Thursday, Jones shared an audio clip of a pre-interview conversation with Kelly where she promised she was not planning “some gotcha hit piece.”
NBC did not back down, releasing the following statement on Friday: “Despite Alex Jones’ efforts to distract from and ultimately prevent the airing of our report, we remain committed to giving viewers context and insight into a controversial and polarizing figure, how he relates to the president of the United States and influences others, and to get this serious story right.”