Truth in a Post-Truth Era: Sandy Hook Families Sue Alex Jones, Conspiracy Theorist

The Texas suits focus on Mr. Jones’ comments over the previous year, including a segment on his radio show last year titled “Sandy Hook Vampires Exposed.” Mark Bankston, a partner in the Houston law firm Farrar & Ball, who is leading the team representing Mr. Heslin, Mr. Pozner and Ms. De La Rosa, said the firm’s young attorneys grew up listening to Mr. Jones’ radio show, and found him an amusing, if weird, local character.

But now Mr. Bankston has a different perspective. “For Alex Jones, it appears that the only real thing on his mind is his business,” Mr. Bankston said. “And if you threatened that, you can make him understand that these kinds of practices have a cost. And if that message goes out to others like him, that’s a victory for these families.”

Mr. Jones exhorts his followers to investigate what they call “false flags,” events concocted by the government or other powerful entities determined to usurp citizens’ rights. Mr. Jones issued a rare apology last year after spreading a fake story that Hillary Clinton and Democratic operatives were running a child pornography ring inside a Washington pizzeria, which had led Edgar M. Welch, a Jones listener, to enter the pizzeria in 2016 with an assault-style rifle, firing it. No one was hurt, and Mr. Welch is now serving a four-year prison term.

Last year, InfoWars posted a video on its website with the headline “Idaho Yogurt Maker Caught Importing Migrant Rapists,” falsely claiming that a Chobani factory in Twin Falls, Idaho, that employs refugees was connected to the 2016 sexual assault of a child. The charges fueled an uproar in the town, and Chobani sued Mr. Jones. As part of a settlement, Mr. Jones admitted on his radio show that he’d “mischaracterized” Chobani, and retracted the false material.

The Sandy Hook families say a simple apology will not suffice. “Oh hell no,” Mr. Wheeler said. “Mr. Jones and his broadcast affiliates need to face serious consequences for their actions.”

Mr. Wheeler has a theater background, and Sandy Hook deniers have, among other things, posted a photo of him at Sandy Hook alongside one of William Aldenberg, an F.B.I. special agent who was a first responder to the shooting and a party to the lawsuit. Mr. Jones and the deniers say that Mr. Wheeler is an actor playing both “roles.”