The conspiracy theorist Alex Jones said on Wednesday he now understands it was irresponsible to declare the Sandy Hook school shooting a hoax, and now believes it was “100% real”.
He was speaking in his own defamation trial, a day after the parents of a six-year-old boy killed in the 2012 attack testified about suffering, death threats and harassment they have endured because of what Jones has trumpeted on his media platforms.
“It was … especially since I’ve met the parents. It’s 100% real,” Jones said, at the trial that will determine how much he owes for defaming the parents of Jesse Lewis, one of 20 children and six adults killed at the school in Newtown, Connecticut.
Lewis’s parents said on Tuesday an apology would not be enough and the Infowars host needed to be held accountable for repeatedly spreading falsehoods about the attack. They are seeking at least $150m.
Closing arguments were expected to begin on Wednesday after more testimony from Jones, who has portrayed the lawsuit as an attack on his first amendment rights. He is the only person testifying in defense of himself and his media company, Free Speech Systems.
Jones’s attorney asked him if he now understands it was “absolutely irresponsible” to push the false claim that the massacre didn’t happen and no one died.
Jones said he does, but added: “They [the media] won’t let me take it back.”
He also complained that he had been “typecast as someone that runs around talking about Sandy Hook, makes money off Sandy Hook, is obsessed by Sandy Hook”.
On Tuesday, Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis testified that Jones and the false hoax claims he pushed through his Infowars website made their lives a “living hell”.
“Alex started this fight,” Heslin said, “and I’ll finish this fight.”
The judge scolded Jones for not being truthful under oath when he told the jury he had complied with pre-trial evidence gathering and that he was bankrupt.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys were furious about Jones mentioning bankruptcy, which they worry will taint the jury’s decisions about damages.
“This is not your show,” Judge Maya Guerra Gamble told Jones. “Your beliefs do not make something true. You are under oath.”
Last September, the judge admonished Jones in her default judgment over his failure to turn over documents requested by the Sandy Hook families.
A court in Connecticut issued a similar default judgment against Jones for the same reasons in a separate lawsuit brought by other Sandy Hook parents.
Jones has tried to protect Free Speech Systems financially. The company filed for federal bankruptcy protection last week.
Sandy Hook families have separately sued Jones over his financial claims, arguing that the company is trying to protect millions owned by Jones and his family through shell entities.