Alex Jones, the Austin-based provocateur embroiled in several lawsuits filed by parents of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, said in a deposition released Friday that his conspiracy thinking was a kind of mental disorder.
Jones, who repeatedly claimed on his internet and radio show InfoWars that the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax, told lawyers he “almost had like a form of psychosis back in the past where I basically thought everything was staged, even though I’m now learning a lot of times things aren’t staged.”
Jones blamed his mental state on “the trauma of the media and the corporations lying so much, then everything begins — you don’t trust anything anymore, kind of like a child whose parents lie to them over and over again, well, pretty soon they don’t know what reality is.”
The admission came toward the end of the three-hour deposition recorded in a downtown Austin law office March 14 in one of several lawsuits brought in Austin, Connecticut and Virginia against Jones by parents of children killed in the shooting. The suits contend that Jones’ repeated claims that the shootings were staged showed a reckless disregard for the truth and for the distress and real harm he was causing the parents, piling torment on their tragedies.
“So long before these lawsuits I said that in the past I thought everything was a conspiracy, and I would kind of get into that mass groupthink of the communities that were out there saying that,” Jones said. “And so now I see that it’s more in the middle. All right? So that’s where I stand.”
But under questioning by Houston lawyer Mark Bankston, Jones continued to display a fundamentally conspiratorial frame of mind.
The deposition offers a revealing look at Jones’ state of mind at a moment of maximum peril for an Austin original. Since summer, Jones has been stripped of major social media platforms for InfoWars because of the content of his posts, and has playing defense in multiple courtrooms.
He was a local cable-access cult figure who built a vast national audience on radio and online by declaring most every major national calamity since 9/11 as a “false flag” or inside job, all with a manic, riveting and often entertaining style. With the rise of President Trump, the once anti-establishment icon became a kind of underground auxiliary to Fox News, building support for Trump with his audience and creating news narratives that complement the president’s own taste for conspiracy thinking.
Throwing fuel on the fire, Jones on Monday questioned the circumstances surrounding the death of Jeremy Richman, one of the Sandy Hook parents who has sued him for defamation in Connecticut. Richman’s body was found that morning in the Newtown building where the neuroscientist had created a foundation, named for his daughter Avielle, to encourage brain research into the causes of violent behavior. The state’s chief medical examiner has confirmed his death was a suicide.
“I mean, how do I get a fair trial with stuff like this?” Jones said on InfoWars. “I’ve never said this guy’s name. Never said his name, until now. And obviously first, it’s we don’t know, he’s got gunshot wounds or whatever. Now it’s, well, apparent suicide. I mean, is there going to be a police investigation? Are they going to look at the surveillance cameras? I mean, what happened to this guy? This whole Sandy Hook thing is, like, really getting even crazier.”
“We have no idea whether he was even murdered at this point,” Jones said Monday of Richman’s death. “Why would some anti-gun guy do this? This is really sad. My prayers go out to him and his family, and we wish for the truth of whatever really happened here to come out. We don’t know yet. And we’ll see the corporate media say outrageous lies, but it’s what they do.”
The deposition of Jones was ordered by state District Judge Scott Jenkins in the case of Scarlett Lewis, whose son was one of 20 first-graders, along with six educators, shot to death Dec. 14, 2012, by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who also killed his mother and himself. Lewis is suing Jones for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Under questioning by Bankston, Jones sought to deflect responsibility for years of claims that the shootings were a hoax staged to inflame public opinion and undermine gun rights, by blaming others whose outrageous and unsupported reports he relied on — “I was going off what other people were saying” — and suggesting that it was his right and responsibility as a “pundit” under the 1st Amendment to present alternative points of view that he had found on the internet.
“It’s painful that we have to question big public events,” Jones said. “I think that’s an essential part of the 1st Amendment in America.”
But, even as he said he has come to believe over the years that the Sandy Hook shootings were real, he continued in the deposition to voice conspiratorial suspicions that the whole truth about what happened remained hidden.
“I think we’ve agreed before that Sandy Hook was real. It was not staged. It was not phony. You were wrong about that,” Bankston said.