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 group think 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. Jones has been stripped since summer of major social media platforms for InfoWars because of the content of his posts and 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 Donald 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 has sued him for defamation in Connecticut. His body was found that morning in the Newtown building where Richman, a 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.”
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 First 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 First 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.
“Well, I want to be clear,” Jones replied. “I believe children died. I believe there was a mass shooting. I still think that there was a man in the woods in camo … and just a lot of experts I’ve talked to, including retired FBI agents and other people and people high up in the Central Intelligence Agency, have told me that there is a cover-up in Sandy Hook.”
Bankston provided a transcript of the deposition to the American-Statesman.
Asked toward the end of the deposition whether “people should be accountable for the people they hurt,” Jones replied that “sometimes people claim they’ve been hurt when they haven’t been. So you have to look at the agenda behind things. You have to balance things about why has the mainstream media lied so much, why our government’s lied so much, the fact that the public doesn’t believe what they’re told anymore, and are we going to criminalize questioning Jussie Smollett or WMDs or babies in incubators. And it really is the fact that we’ve allowed the government and institutions to become so corrupt that people have lost any compass of what’s real.”
Bankston asked Jones about the assertion by his lawyers at a pretrial hearing in his 2017 child custody case that in his on-air persona, Jones was a “performance artist.”
“So I want to ask you, I want to know,” Bankston asked. “When you were making these claims about Sandy Hook, were you being a journalist, or was this all performance art?”
“When I say things on air, I believe it,” Jones said.