Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI & TIMOTHY JOHNSON
Conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones was pressured to air an apology for his role in spreading the false “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, which led to a Jones listener firing a gun inside a Washington, D.C. pizzeria. Jones aired a pre-taped video in which he acknowledged that he made commentary about the pizzeria owner that “in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him.”
Watch Jones’ statement here (transcript here):
On December 4, Edgar Maddison Welch entered Comet Ping Pong during business hours while wielding an assault weapon to “self-investigate” the false conspiracy theory that the restaurant was helping the campaign of Hillary Clinton traffic children. After patrons and employees fled, Welch fired several shots. On March 24, The Washington Post reported that Welch had pleaded guilty to two violations of federal and local gun laws.
The New York Times interviewed Welch several days after the shooting, and he told the paper that he was a listener of Jones’ show and that Jones “touches on some issues that are viable,” but that sometimes Jones “goes off the deep end.” The criminal complaint against Welch alleged that he shared a YouTube video with the message “Watch PIZZAGATE: The Bigger Picture.” Alex Jones’ website Infowars published a December 1 article with the headline “Pizzagate: The Bigger Picture” which included an Infowars YouTube video.
Following the Comet incident, Jones claimed that Welch is an “admitted actor” and that the incident “is classic scripting. I’m not saying it’s scripted -- it has all the telltale signs, they’ve been caught doing it before.”
Infowars also scrubbed some Pizzagate-related content from its website and YouTube, including a video posted before the Comet incident in which Jones told his listeners to personally “investigate” the conspiracy theory.
A February Infowars article falsely denied that Infowars had promoted the conspiracy theory.
Jones, a top media ally of President Donald Trump, is a self-proclaimed founder of the so-called 9/11 Truth movement and has repeatedly alleged that the September 11, 2001, terror attacks were carried out by the U.S. government. He frequently claims that calamities such as natural disasters, mass public shootings, and terror attacks are “false flag” events orchestrated by the government.
In particular, Jones has promoted conspiracy theories about the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, that left 20 children and six educators dead. Family members have said they have been regularly harassed and threatened by conspiracy theorists, and they have criticized Jones for his smears.
Jones has close ties to Trump. During a December 2015 appearance on The Alex Jones Show, Trump praised Jones as having an "amazing" reputation and promised, "I will not let you down." Following Trump’s victory, Jones said Trump had called him to “thank” his audience. Jones has also bragged in recent months that the president calls him.
ALEX JONES (HOST): First, an important piece here when it comes to being accurate, dealing with Pizzagate. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Alex Jones here with an important note to our viewing, listening, and reading audiences. I’m going to read to you from a statement that is also posted to Infowars.com that I wrote yesterday.
Last fall, before the presidential election, a large number of media outlets began reporting on allegations arising from emails released by WikiLeaks that appeared to come from John Podesta, who served President Clinton and Obama and was the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Dozens of those stories and articles raised or discussed theories that some of Podesta’s emails contained code words for human trafficking and/or pedophilia. Stories also included allegations connecting members of the Democratic Party with a number of restaurants allegedly involved with a child sex ring. These stories were cited and discussed in social media and went viral on the internet.
One of the persons mentioned in many of the stories in the media was a Washington, D.C., restaurant owner named James Alefantis, and his pizza restaurant Comet Ping Pong. It is fair to say that Mr. Alefantis is a prominent individual who has been mentioned as a power player in Washington. Mr. Alefantis and his restaurant were mentioned in many stories published by a lot of different outlets. Mr. Alefantis was quoted in many subsequent stories, and he denied any involvement in such reported child sex rings. These denials were reported in the national media and many other outlets and news websites.
The volume of stories was substantial, generating national headlines and came to be known across the country as “Pizzagate.” We at Infowars became part of that national discussion. We broadcast commentary about the allegations and the theory that the emails contained code words. We raised questions about information in Mr. Podesta’s emails and the Comet Ping Pong restaurant. We believed at the time that further investigation was necessary. In December of 2016, we disassociated ourselves from the “Pizzagate” claims and theories, a position we reiterated last month after being contacted by Mr. Alefantis.
In late February of 2017, we received a letter from Mr. Alefantis asking that we retract certain statements that he says were made in seven of our broadcasts between the last week of November and the first week of December in 2016. We have attempted, through our lawyers, to contact Mr. Alefantis to discuss with him what sort of statement he would like to see made.
In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate, I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him. We were participating in a discussion that was being written about by scores of media outlets, in one of the most hotly contested and disputed political environments our country has ever seen. We relied on third-party accounts of alleged activities and conduct at the restaurant. We also relied on accounts of reporters who are no longer with us. This was an ever-evolving story, which had a huge amount of commentary about it across many, many media outlets.
As I have said before, what became a heightened focus on Mr. Alefantis and Comet Ping Pong by many media outlets was not appropriate. To my knowledge today, neither Mr. Alefantis, nor his restaurant Comet Ping Pong, were involved in any human trafficking as was part of the theories about Pizzagate that were being written about in the media outlets and which we commented upon.
I want our viewers and listeners to know that we regret any negative impact our commentaries may have had on Mr. Alefantis, Comet Ping Pong, or its employees. We apologize to the extent our commentaries could be considered as negative statements about Mr. Alefantis or Comet Ping Pong, and we hope that anyone else involved in commenting on Pizzagate will do the same thing.
Here’s what we have done to clarify to the public. Months ago, we took down the majority of broadcasts and videos including ones that only passingly mentioned Pizzagate. This happened months before we were even contacted by Mr. Alefantis. Mr. Alefantis objected to portions of seven particular radio/TV broadcasts. We have taken down those seven broadcasts and we have attempted to take down any broadcasts that mentioned Mr. Alefantis or Comet Ping Pong. We have attempted to do so not just on our website but also on social media sites such as our YouTube channel. If Mr. Alefantis has any other objections, we invite him to let us know. Two reporters who used to be associated with us are no longer with us. In a recent broadcast, I invited Mr. Alefantis on our program to state what he wanted to, and I again do so here. He has given interviews to many media outlets, and he is welcome to come on our show.
In issuing this statement, we are not admitting that Mr. Alefantis, or his restaurants, have any legal claim. We do not believe they do. But we are issuing this statement because we think it is the right thing to do. It will be no surprise to you that we will fight for children across America. But the Pizzagate narrative, as least as concerning Mr. Alefantis and Comet Ping Pong, we have subsequently determined was based upon what we now believe was an incorrect narrative. Despite the fact that we were far from the genesis of this story, it is never easy to admit when your commentaries are based on inaccurate information, but we feel like we owe it to you the listeners, viewers and supporters to make that statement, and to give an apology to you and to Mr. Alefantis, when we do.
We encourage you to hold us accountable. We improve when you do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: And again, ladies and gentlemen, that was -- we got distracted off by MSM on this stuff in D.C. when it was all going on in New York and that’s why day one, I saw it, I saw the media, and I said, “Get off that.” And I did that because we’re not psychopaths, we actually look at what is reality and then focus on that. We don’t go like MSM with their misinfo and just cold-bloodedly spew lies, this person’s a racist, this person’s this, this person’s that. Just because it gets us ahead in what we’re doing, we’re all about integrity, and that’s why we make mistakes by covering MSM, focusing on it, and the huge debate. We will absolutely own up to it, and make right for it, as we just did.