After playing an April 2017 tape of Alex Jones conflating lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq with his doubts about the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Jones’ attorney acknowledged that most of those who packed the Austin courtroom Wednesday might fault the famed conspiracy theorist’s reasoning.
“Maybe it’s fringe speech, maybe it’s dangerous speech,” attorney Mark Enoch said. “That is not defamation, that’s rhetorical hyperbole at its core.”
“It’s what they expect when they tune in,” Enoch said of Jones’ vast radio and online audience.
Enoch, a Dallas attorney who said he knew nothing about Jones before he became a client, was arguing before state District Judge Scott Jenkins that he should dismiss the million-dollar defamation lawsuit brought by Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, the parents of a child who was killed in the Connecticut school shooting that Jones, over the years, had suggested was a hoax.
Houston attorney Mark Bankston brought the defamation suit against Jones, one of three he has brought in Austin against the broadcaster who in the 2016 presidential campaign gained the ear and favorable attention of President Donald Trump. Bankston said Jones presents his opinions as facts and that’s how some listeners, including a Florida woman who in 2016 was sent to prison for death threats against the Pozner family, take them.
“We cannot allow his reckless lies to continue to put their lives in danger,” Bankston said.
After hearing their arguments for just over three hours, Jenkins recessed and asked the attorneys to make any additions to the written record he will use to decide whether to dismiss the plaintiff’s motion as without sufficient merit to proceed.
Once he receives all the documents, Jenkins has 30 days to render a judgment.
At issue is whether Jones is in some manner a journalist — and thus responsible for backing up what he contends are facts with evidence — or a polemicist whose every rant is protected speech under the First Amendment.
In the tape played by his attorney, Jones insisted, “Everything I say is documented … we’re so real, they say we’re fake.”
Jones’ central claim, repeated in the April 2017 broadcast, is that CNN host Anderson Cooper’s interview with De La Rosa after the Sandy Hook shooting was not actually conducted in Newtown, Conn., as it was purported to be, but rather in a studio in front of a blue screen presenting an image of Newtown.
As Enoch explains in his motion, “Anderson Cooper’s nose temporarily disappears in this video as he turns his head, which Mr. Jones argues is evidence of technical glitches that often occur when using a blue screen. Mr. Jones concluded that … CNN was misrepresenting or faking the actual location of the interview, just as he believes they had been caught doing and admitted to in the past.”
But in an affidavit on behalf of the plaintiffs, Grant Fredericks, a certified forensic video analyst, concludes that Cooper’s disappearing nose was a consequence of post-production compression, not the use of a blue screen, and that the anomaly Jones observed does not appear on a higher quality version of the interview that has been publicly available on YouTube since April 24, 2013.
Enoch said that 2017 statement has to carry the defamation case, and added that he doesn’t know if in earlier statements, beyond the one-year statute of limitations for defamation cases, Jones said he considered Sandy Hook a hoax.
On his broadcast Wednesday, Jones said his lawyers would show videos in court of all the times he said Sandy Hook really did happen, but told his listeners they won’t see any coverage of that in the mainstream media — “none, zero” — because they hate the truth, Christianity and him.
Bankston said Jones’ comments in the 2017 broadcast only have to sound like defamation to some reasonable people to allow exploration of earlier statements — beyond the statute of limitations — in which it is more apparent that Jones called Sandy Hook a hoax and a fraud.
In that context, Bankston said, the green screen claim cannot be seen as anything but an assertion that Sandy Hook was a fraud, and that De La Rosa, by being part of that CNN interview, was a party to that, as was Pozner by implication.
Enoch said in court that while their motion to dismiss the suit, under the statute, would ordinarily require the plaintiffs to pay attorneys’ fees if their suit is dismissed, Jones has no desire to take any money from the Sandy Hook parents and they would waive any fee byoned a single dollar.
In providing live coverage of his lawyer’s effort to dismiss the defamation case against him, Jones said Wednesday that Twitter, Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, are going after him to try to get Trump and gut the First Amendment through him.
“I’m now as demonized as the president,” Jones said on his InfoWars broadcast Wednesday.
The Austin case is one of five defamation cases — three in Texas, and one each in Connecticut and Virginia — that attorneys for Jones are seeking to have thrown out of court as frivolous infringements on his First Amendment rights.
Lawyers representing Jones will be back in court in Austin on Thursday to argue that another case should be thrown out. Marcel Fontaine sued Alex Jones and Kit Daniels, an InfoWars editor, claiming that in the hours after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., InfoWars published a photograph of Fontaine erroneously identifying him as the Parkland shooter.