Alex Jones Owes Her Millions of Dollars. She Has to Crowdfund Her Cancer Treatment on GoFundMe.

After winning an enormous judgment against Jones and Infowars, Sandy Hook plaintiff Erica Lafferty is still fighting for her survival. 
Erica Lafferty in a red Moms Demand Action shirt
Ade Osadolor (L), a Texas native and a member of the Students Demand Action National Advisory Board, and Erica Leslie Lafferty, whose mother was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, attend a rally with fellow Congressional Democrats and gun control advocacy groups outside the U.S. Capitol on May 26, 2022 in Washington, DC. Organized by Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety and Students Demand Action, the rally brought together members of Congress and gun violence survivors to demand gun safety legislation following mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. Photo via Getty Images

Not long ago, very late at night, Erica Lafferty was projectile vomiting while trying to listen to a podcast. Lafferty is undergoing treatment for Stage II orbital lymphoma, a tumor that she says roughly tripled in size over 14 weeks. Her family and friends recently set up a GoFundMe to help her pay for her treatment, and Lafferty had noticed a donation, and a note, that she didn’t quite understand. It was from a name she didn’t recognize, and in their comment, the person called themselves “a wonk.” 


Googling the two terms together, Lafferty found a Reddit thread and realized she’d recently been discussed on Knowledge Fight, a podcast where two former comedians from Chicago, Dan Friesen and Jordan Holmes, microscopically analyze Alex Jones and Infowars, using a combination of mockery, outrage, analysis, interviews, and play-by-plays of his broadcasts. 

Lafferty is an accidental and deeply reluctant Jones expert herself. After her mother, Dawn Hochsprung, was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary in December of 2012, shot trying to protect her students, Lafferty was targeted by conspiracy theorists who insisted that her mother had never lived, or died, at the school. Lafferty was one of several plaintiffs in a Connecticut lawsuit against Jones; in October, he was ordered to pay a total default judgment of $965 million to them, plus $473 million in punitive damages awarded by the judge. The jury awarded Lafferty $76 million, plus more in punitive damages, totaling around $100 million in all. 

The gigantic judgments levied against Jones offered a moment of bittersweet vindication for the families, who were terrorized for years by conspiracy theorists—Jones the largest and loudest among them. But none of the plaintiffs have, as yet, seen a dime of the money awarded to them. Jones and Infowars have both filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and the bankruptcy proceedings have become increasingly baroque, with the plaintiffs often objecting that Jones seems to be hiding or moving money during the process. There is no indication as to when the Sandy Hook plaintiffs, who are now also creditors in the bankruptcy, might be paid, or how much the judgment could be reduced.


And now, less than a year later, Lafferty is also being treated for the lymphoma, a process she says has already been brutal. (Lafferty’s cancer battle was first reported by the Hartford Courant and Connecticut Public Radio.) Lafferty says her insurance has refused to cover her chemotherapy drugs, deeming them “elective” since the cancer is still not very advanced; she’s also undergoing radioactive iodine therapy, which carries other significant costs. 

“Everything you touch is a biohazard,” Lafferty said. Towels and bed linens can only be used once and then have to be discarded; the patient has to sleep alone for seven days after treatment and avoid all physical contact with others for a period of time. “I have to pay to have a biohazard company to come and pick up my waste and dispose of it in a safe manner,” Lafferty says. When she and her husband made an Amazon list pre-treatment to try to tally up her costs for everything that would have to be used, thrown away, and replaced repeatedly, “it was like several thousand dollars” per round of treatment, she said. Her doctors expect she will need to undergo six to seven rounds of treatment over the next year. 


Lafferty is trying to work throughout her treatments; she’s a program manager at the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety, where she focuses on non-legislative efforts like suicide prevention and keeping kids from accessing guns. Through her work, she has excellent insurance, but between the chemo drugs not being covered and the enormous contingent costs of the radioactive iodine treatment, she had no choice but to allow a friend to set up a GoFundMe. And that cost something else: a little more of Lafferty’s privacy. 

“I’ve been forced to live in the public eye for a decade,” Lafferty said. “That’s the nature of being the daughter of the victim of a high-profile mass shooting. My life has been on TV. There’s very little you can’t Google about me. Leading into the trial our medical records were leaked and given to people. That had been the last thing about me that I didn't have to worry about being Googleable.” Now, she added, “I have this cancer that’s literally taking over my body.” 

Without public donations and crowdfunding, Lafferty says, she will die. “I have to do this in order to survive.”  

In many ways, Lafferty’s adult life has been a tour through the parts of the United States that are particularly broken. Her mother was murdered with an AR-15, and the tragedy she and her family were part of has become synonymous with this country’s bitter, endless gun-policy debate. Now, she’s dealing with an illness that could both bankrupt her and end her life—and the financial burden would be significantly greater were it not for the fact that she’s the victim of a well-known tragedy. Friesen and Holmes, the Knowledge Fight hosts, discussed Lafferty’s GoFundMe on their program with Mark Bankston, a plaintiffs’ attorney in the related Texas cases brought by other Sandy Hook families. (Bankston was the person who informed Jones that he’d been given a copy of his cellphone data, adding, immortally, “You know what perjury is?”)


After Knowledge Fight discussed her illness, Lafferty was deluged in donations from the podcast’s fans; to date, they’ve raised $93,000 of their $100,000 goal. Fans of the show often refer to themselves as “wonks,” and they’ve donated thousands in the six days since the show aired, often leaving notes to say the show sent them. 

Lafferty is overwhelmingly grateful, she said. But she’s also dealing with the knowledge that her mother’s death is, indirectly, what’s leading to these donations. 

“The stark reality is that I would not survive this if my mom was not murdered at Sandy Hook,” she said. “People would not know who I am and they would not care to donate towards this life-saving treatment that I need. That is the crappy, crappy reality of the America we live in.” 

Lafferty’s trial testimony about her mother, whom she adored, was gut-wrenchingly sad, as were her descriptions of the steps she took after she started to be targeted by Sandy Hook deniers. Lafferty testified that she was approached in person by deniers starting just weeks after the shooting, called a crisis actor, tagged in vitriolic comments on Facebook, and sent hate mail, death threats, and graphic threats of rape. She’s moved five times since the shooting—many of the Sandy Hook plaintiffs have said they were forced to move—and said she got dogs, installed home security systems, and uses an alias when she travels. Standing outside the courthouse after the verdict, she told assembled journalists that whenever anything good happened in her life, she wished she could just tell her mother. 


“I didn’t want my mom when the doctor told me I had cancer,” Lafferty said. “I needed my mom. I needed her. And then getting my appeals denied and finding out that my treatment’s not being covered—this is the first time that I had something in my life that I didn't want to tell her. Because it would break her freaking heart.” 

“I’m so tired of fighting,” Lafferty added. “I’ve been fighting to help reduce the amount of gun violence we see in this country for 10 years. I just finished this brawl with Jones. And now I have this cancer that’s taking over my body and I physically have to fight this one.”

Even now, after taking what she called “a last ditch effort to save my own life,” Lafferty said, she’s still seeing vile comments from Jones fans asking why she’s raising money at all. “They’re saying, ‘She’s a multimillionaire, why is she asking for other people’s money? She doesn't need it.’”

Having a community of support online after dealing with years of vile threats and vitriol has been life changing, Lafferty said. “I wish I had all these people to carry me through the last 10 years,” she said. “Because that Jones stuff got really hard and really scary. Not many people were in the trenches and understood. It’s hard to talk to the other families because we all had such unique experiences in terms of how we were tortured.”

Lafferty “can only imagine how much light it would have been,” she said, “had I known about this phenomenal community when I was getting daily rape threats or death threats. Finding them now, I'm so incredibly thankful.” 

It is, she reflected, another strange reversal, in a life full of them. “Because of Alex Jones,” Lafferty said, “I was isolated and stalked and tortured and threatened. And now because of Alex Jones, and Dan and Jordan, everywhere I turn I see support.”