But while Jones’ misrepresentations and rants launched him into the national political dialogue, his rise was arguably cemented, thanks to Donald Trump and Joe Rogan embracing Jones and endorsing his ideas with audiences in line of millions of people in recent years.
Jones’ 2015 interview with Trump offered a window into some of the future president’s talking points at his rallies.
“Your reputation is amazing,” Trump told Jones at the time.
Jones continuing “The Joe Rogan Experience” in 2020 allowed him to push false claims about coronavirus vaccinations on Spotify, where he had been banned. A widely shared clip on Twitter this week shows how Rogan, whose show has an estimated audience of 11 million per episode, previously defended Jones as “hilarious” and having entertainment value.
“What’s he doing that’s so horrible?” asked Rogan. “It’s funny !”
Representatives for Trump and Rogan did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday morning.
Alex Jones must pay Sandy Hook parents $4.1 million, jury hears
An Austin jury’s decision on Thursday means Jones could pay far less than the $150 million sought by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, for remarks after the 2012 Sandy massacre Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which killed 26 people, including 20 young children. It remains to be seen how much Jones, 48, could be ordered to pay in punitive damages. The jury is expected to return on Friday to weigh that amount – a sum that could be significantly higher.
Shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting, Jones, who has previously promoted conspiracy theories about the Oklahoma City bombing and the 9/11 attacks, falsely claimed ‘nobody died’ at the school and that the attack was “staged” and “fabricated” by gun control supporters. The remarks not only outraged grieving parents, but also led to death threats and abuse from strangers. After Heslin told the jury this week that the false allegations had made his life a “living hell”, Jones admitted in court to the family that the shooting was “100% real”.
“Neil and Scarlett are thrilled with the outcome and look forward to putting Mr. Jones’ money to good use,” parents’ attorney Mark Bankston told The Washington Post on Thursday. “With punitive damages yet to be decided and multiple additional defamation lawsuits pending, it is clear that Mr. Jones’ time on the American stage is finally coming to an end.”
His presence on the national stage was boosted when Trump, who emerged as the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, agreed to be interviewed on Infowars. Trump and Jones said the December 2015 interview was arranged by Trump confidant Roger Stone – years later Jones and Stone would be subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the insurgency at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
“I won’t let you down,” Trump told the Infowars founder.
Jones acknowledged the impression he seemed to have on Trump, taking credit for introducing the then-candidate to the idea that members of the media were his “enemy.”
“It’s surreal to talk about issues here on the air and then, word for word, hear Trump say it two days later,” Jones told his audience at the time.
The connection between Trump and Jones was documented in “United States of Conspiracy,” a 2020 special from PBS’s “Frontline.” One of the lies Jones spread on his show was that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama founded the Islamic State. Trump repeated Jones’ false claim about Clinton and Obama at one of the Republican candidate’s rallies ahead of the 2016 presidential election, according to PBS. Trump repeated, during an interview with Fox News, another of Jones’ lies: that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) father was associated with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Former Infowars staffers told “Frontline” how Trump apparently using Jones’ false claims as his own was “a super powerful trip for Alex that was irresistible.”
“Somebody in the mainstream – Trump – using the words that Jones had been using for decades, I think it emboldened Jones, and it changed him as a personality,” said Josh Owens, former video editor at info wars.
Trump’s support elevated Jones in the national conversation, such as when Fox News host Tucker Carlson hailed Jones as “one of the most popular right-wing journalists.” Joe Walsh, the former GOP congressman from Illinois who has since become a vocal critic of Trump and his Republican Party allies, noted on Twitter this week how “there really is no difference between Alex Jones and Donald Trump. None.”
But the elevated profile also cost Jones. In 2018, Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify were among the platforms to ban any content from Jones and Infowars for violating their hate speech guidelines. After Roku dropped Infowars in 2019, Jones shared a cryptic post on his Instagram account of a tweet from Infowars journalist Owen Shroyer, which featured an artistic banner of Jones’ face looking enraged.
“Cut me down now and I will only grow more powerful,” Shroyer wrote.
Roku has given Infowars a platform reaching millions. After hours of outrage, he backed down.
In the world of podcasting, Rogan is one of its main personalities. Rogan, a hugely successful lightning rod for controversy, reached a deal with Spotify in 2020 for $100 million for its podcast library.
So when Rogan hosted Jones on his show in October 2020, the Infowars host listed a series of lies surrounding coronavirus safety measures such as vaccination and masking, climate science and the coronavirus vaccine. polio. During the three-hour appearance, Rogan also referenced Jones’ lies regarding the Sandy Hook shooting.
“We all know you have [messed] some things, right? Rogan told Jones in 2020, specifically mentioning Sandy Hook. “But you have so many good things. That’s why I keep talking to you about these things, and that’s why I defend you and why I think it’s… dangerous to censor you.
In response to the ensuing backlash, Rogan defended having Jones on his show. Rogan said on Instagram that he checked “all the crazy things he said” and that “all of them were verified”.
“I knew people were going to criticize the content of the podcast without even listening and I was right,” Rogan wrote. “He said a lot of crazy, but accurate things, and that’s what I’ve been saying about him for years.”
Even though Spotify banned Jones and Infowars from its platforms, company executives also defended the reservation, writing in an internal email about how “it’s important to have voices and points of view various on our platform,” according to BuzzFeed News. Rogan found himself under fire in early 2022 for controversies surrounding coronavirus misinformation and the many previous instances in which the host used the n-word.
A Spotify spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rogan supporters have also taken a direct interest in Jones. On Reddit, users of the Rogan subreddit flooded the forum with posts about Jones and clips from the defamation lawsuit. While some on Reddit are tired of reading about Rogan’s single guest, others can’t get enough.
“Alex Jones spitting FACTS!” one supporter wrote.