Alex Jones took the stand on Tuesday morning in Austin, Texas, and, as is his wont, made everything a lot worse for himself, those around him, and the general public.
Jones is currently squirming his way through the first of three damages trials to determine how much he owes Sandy Hook families after losing civil defamation cases by default. His testimony was a morass of excuses, occasional product placement, weak justifications, non-responsive answers, and general incoherence. He also got a nasty surprise when he learned that the plaintiffs’ attorneys have a digital copy of his cellphone and can prove he lied and misrepresented his profit margins and the emails he’s sent about Sandy Hook.
On cross-examination, Jones also had to explain why Infowars has been falsely implying that the trial is “rigged,” scripted, or that the judge in the case might be connected to child trafficking, a particularly baseless and inflammatory claim. And, for the first time in open court, he had to connect his lies about Sandy Hook with his general insistence that every mass casualty event of the last 15 or 20 years has been a false flag or staged in some way.
"I didn't know you'd bring this up,” Jones said weakly, at one point, after being confronted by plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Bankston with evidence that he said the shooting of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in 2011 was a “government mind control operation.” “That was a long time ago,” Jones said.
Jones’ testimony came in stark contrast to plaintiff Scarlett Lewis, the mother of slain Sandy Hook child Jesse Lewis, who testified just before him on Tuesday. Lewis talked, calmly and at length, about the ways that the lies told by Jones and others about her murdered child retraumatized her. She also spoke directly to Jones at one point, telling him, “I am a mother, first and foremost, and I know you're a father. And my son existed." Lewis also spoke about the Choose Love Movement, a no-cost program she founded to teach social and emotional skills to children in a school setting. And after testimony concluded for the day, Lewis approached Jones—who’s been coughing loudly all week in court, with what he says is a “torn larynx”— with water and a cough drop. In return, Jones insisted on shaking the hands of her and Neil Heslin, Jesse’s father, and then began railing at them that they were being lied to and manipulated by their attorneys and others. (Heslin and Lewis’ attorneys then quickly led them away.)
In his testimony, Jones tried to focus on his oft-repeated claim that he didn’t cover Sandy Hook very often, and that in recent years—after referring to it as a “hoax” and “synthetic”—he has admitted that it was a real event where people actually died.
“I never intentionally tried to hurt you,” he said at one point, addressing plaintiff Neil Heslin, Jesse’s father. “I never even said your name until this case came to court. I didn’t even really know who you were until a couple years ago when all this started up.”
Jones tried to cast himself as the spiritual heir to Howard Stern or Larry King, someone running a call-in show, asking questions, and holding debates. “Our main topics were war and surveillance and the police state,” he told his own attorney, Federico Reynal. (Jones attempted to fold Sandy Hook into those topics, claiming repeatedly on air that it was a manufactured event designed to pave the way for the U.S. government to seize the public’s guns.) He also admitted that he’d started to cool on Sandy Hook conspiracy theories when infamous Sandy Hook denier Wolfgang Halbig started to accuse him of being part of the coverup.
“I got my head cleaned up, stopped drinking for a while and realized it probably did happen,” he said.
Jones also managed to work in some fairly jaw-dropping references to Infowars’ supplements and other products, ones that sounded like he was doing a commercial break aimed at the jury.
“They’re triple-tested and the highest-quality,” he assured them.
On cross-examination, though, things got far stickier for Jones, especially when plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Bankston informed him that 12 days ago, Jones’ attorneys accidentally sent him an entire digital copy of Jones’ cellphone, which they then failed to declare as privileged. That means Bankston has wide latitude to ask Jones about anything he found on the phone that conflicts with things Jones has said in his testimony.
“That is how I know you lied to me,” Bankston said serenely, particularly about Jones’ insistence that he doesn’t use email and that he had no texts to turn over about Sandy Hook. Bankston showed him messages between himself and Infowars anchor Paul Joseph Watson, discussing their Sandy Hook coverage.
“You know what perjury is?” Bankston asked Jones.
Jones had also previously testified that their profit margins on prepackaged tubs of food—meant for an apocalypse, fall of civilization scenario—was around 20%. But, Bankston told Jones, a message from a sales manager to Jones, pulled from the phone, showed the margins were much higher. “I didn't get those numbers from you and now I have these text messages,” he said.
Jones previously told the jury that he is “broke” and “bankrupt,” both of which are not true, and which earned him a rebuke from the judge. Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which is not the same thing as Jones personally being broke or bankrupt. Bankston told Jones that data from the phone showed that Infowars was making $100,000 to $200,000 a day in 2018, even after he began being deplatformed from major social media sites, and occasionally made up to $800,00 a day. (Reporting has shown that deplatforming did limit Infowars’ reach.)
Bankston’s larger point was that Jones has insisted he and his company are broke, deplatformed, cast adrift on an iceberg, and thus utterly unable to pay what the Sandy Hook plaintiffs deserve. At the close of his cross-examination, with a flourish, he held up a single dollar bill, the amount of money Jones’ attorneys have argued he should pay in damages.
“What does the New York Times pay for lying about WMDs?” Jones shot back, making excuses to the last.
The trial is ongoing, with Jones taking written questions from the jury. “I really do want to try to change and be a more positive force when it comes to things like mass shootings,” Jones assured them, in response to one question.