Far-right personality and longtime Infowars editor Paul Joseph Watson warned Alex Jones to stop pushing the lie that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax, he said in recent testimony that will likely cripple his boss’ chances of a lawsuit victory.
Watson was deposed last month as part of a defamation lawsuit that Sandy Hook father Neil Heslin has levied against Jones, the owner of the far-right website. Since the 2012 Connecticut shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead, Infowars has repeatedly and falsely called the parents “crisis actors” and said that the shooting was a hoax. Jones is now being sued by nine family members of loved ones who died in the shooting.
The deposition, released Thursday by Houston law firm Farrar & Ball, centers around a 2015 email Watson sent to Infowars staff and Jones himself pleading that the conspiracy outlet stop spreading lies about the Sandy Hook parents. The deposition took place on a video conference between Heslin’s lawyer in Austin, Texas, and Watson in London. Watch the full deposition here
“This Sandy Hook stuff is killing us,” Watson wrote in the email. “It’s promoted by the most batshit crazy people like Rense and Fetzer who all hate us anyway. Plus it makes us look really bad to align with people who harass the parents of dead kids. It’s gonna hurt us with Drudge and bringing bigger names into the show. Plus the event happened 3 years ago, why even risk our reputation for it?”
Jeff Rense and James Fetzer both pushed the false narrative that the shooting was faked, and Fetzer recently lost a $450,000 defamation lawsuit against parent Leonard Pozner after publishing a book titled “Nobody Died at Sandy Hook.” Attorney Mark Bankston, who is representing Heslin and multiple other families suing Jones, asked Watson in the deposition how he came to the conclusion that those two individuals were “batshit crazy.”
“Because they were pushing the notion that nobody died at Sandy Hook, which I thought was not credible and was supported by no evidence, so therefore, was a crazy conclusion to make,” Watson responded. But he stopped short of saying Jones was in the same camp because the Infowars host was simply “commenting on the controversy of the conspiracy theories that were swirling about Sandy Hook at the time.”
Throughout the deposition, Watson attempted to defend his longtime ally and friend, arguing that Jones is not a journalist so doesn’t have to abide by the same ethics, and claiming that the harassment that the parents faced was not the result of Infowars’ continued smear campaigns over the years. But Watson, himself a deeply uninformed conspiracy theorist, has his own reputation to protect. He’s experienced a meteoric rise in the far-right world outside of Infowars over the years, boasting more than 1 million followers on Twitter. He was retweeted twice by Donald Trump before Trump became president, and more than 30 times by Donald Trump Jr., according to The Daily Beast.
Again and again, Watson can’t help but throw Jones under the bus by routinely acknowledging that what Jones did was deliberate and irresponsible:
Bankston: Now it has bothered you personally to be associated with the kind of tasteless things being said about the parents on Infowars, correct?
Watson: Well, it obviously bothered me at the time because of the content of that email.
Bankston: Correct. And it continued to bother you, right?
Watson: So long as the same narrative was being pushed, yes.
Bankston: Okay. Because Mr. ― Let’s be honest about this email in 2015. Mr. Jones didn’t listen to you, correct, on this topic?
Watson: Whether he toned it down, I couldn’t say, but I mean, if you want to say he didn’t ― he didn’t listen to me in that instance, you could make that argument, yes.
Watson said Jones’ coverage of the shooting was not “decent and right”:
Bankston: In terms of what you think is decent and right, in terms of covering this story, do you think Infowars always adhered to what is decent and right in covering this story?
Watson: Well, it’s a subjective term, but, from my ―
Bankston: In your opinion, Mr. Watson.
Watson: From my personal perspective, decent and right, I would not have covered it in that way, no.
The testimony is bound to be another nail in the coffin of Jones’ piddling legal defense that he was just engaging in free speech. In October, Jones lost an appeal in his case against Heslin and was also ordered to pay more than $25,000 in attorney fees. That same month, his motion to dismiss another lawsuit brought forth by Sandy Hook parent Scarlett Lewis also failed. And in November, he lost an appeal in yet another lawsuit brought by Sandy Hook parents Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, whose son was the youngest killed in the shooting. Jones is now on his seventh lawyer.
And Jones didn’t do himself any favors earlier this year when he was in the hot seat and forced to answer questions about his Sandy Hook lies, during which he admitted he didn’t even know the date of the shooting.
Jones’ newest attorney, Wade Jefferies, told HuffPost he plans to represent his client for “the long haul.”
“Whether one agrees or disagrees with the discussion and debate, open discussion and debate are protected by the First Amendment,” Jefferies said in a statement. “Under the First Amendment our Nation has chosen to protect even hurtful speech on controversial issues to ensure that public debate is not stifled.”
Bankston said Jones’ legal woes aren’t going anywhere.
“Time is running out for Mr. Jones,” Bankston said in a statement. “The day is fast approaching when he will be held accountable for his monstrously reckless lies about our clients.”
Watson wasn’t the only one attempting to sound the alarm within Infowars that their Sandy Hook coverage was dangerous. A 13-year veteran of the outlet, Rob Jacobson, testified in March that he was laughed at by staff when he tried to explain the ramifications of targeting the parents of dead kids. He even went to Jones himself months before a 2017 interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, Jacobson told HuffPost in October.
“I told [Jones] straight to his face: ‘They’re going to come after you for Sandy Hook. This is really bad,’” Jacobson said. “He just stared at me like a deer in the headlights, he had nothing to say. And we just went on our way.”
Watson said in his deposition that he isn’t proud of Infowars’ Sandy Hook coverage. But that doesn’t make Watson courageous.
“You didn’t stop it though, did you Mr. Watson?” Bankston asked in the deposition.
“Well, I aired my grievances, but I don’t control Infowars, so,” Watson responded.
“Correct,” Bankston replied. “You aired your grievances in an email that we see, but then after that email in 2015, you just kept working for the company that was doing this, didn’t you?”
“Correct,” Watson said.