Alex Jones once operated in the darkest corners of the internet, spreading conspiracy theories about government involvement in 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing. He has also claimed the government is trying to “encourage homosexuality with chemicals so that people don’t have children.”
But with the rise of Donald Trump, Jones has gained increased prominence and legitimacy.
“Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down,” Trump said in 2015 to Jones, who runs InfoWars.com and has more than 2 million subscribers on YouTube.
Jones, however, is now trying to convince a judge in Austin, Texas, that he’s not really the guy Trump and the rest of the country thinks he is. Rather, he’s just a normal person who loves his children.
Over the next two weeks, a jury will decide whether there is a difference between the public and private Jones, and whether that matters in his role as a father. His ex-wife, Kelly, from whom he has been divorced since 2015, wants sole or joint custody of their three children.
“He’s playing a character. He is a performance artist,” Jones’ attorney Randall Wilhite said at a recent pretrial hearing, summing up his argument for his client. Wilhite said characterizing Jones on his InfoWars persona would be like saying Jack Nicholson is the same as the Joker in “Batman.”
Kelly said he is “not a stable person” and should not receive custody.
“He says he wants to break Alec Baldwin’s neck. He wants J-Lo to get raped,” Kelly said at a recent pretrial hearing, according to the Austin American-Statesman, adding that she didn’t like that he would broadcast from home in front of their children.
Jones has claimed that he occasionally speaks with Trump on the phone, and a fair number of Trump’s unfounded allegations ― like his claim that millions of people voted illegally for Hillary Clinton ― were theories that InfoWars earlier promoted. Trump did not put them out there as entertaining tidbits from a performer, but as actual news.
Jones also promoted the Pizzagate controversy, a conspiracy theory that said Clinton campaign officials were involved in a child sex ring at a popular pizza place in Washington, D.C. The fake news led to a North Carolina man going to the restaurant, Comet Ping Pong, with an assault rifle in December to investigate the situation for himself.
Late last month, Jones apologized for his role in fanning the flames, a rare public admission from the radio host. The Washington Post noted that Jones may have been concerned about a potential lawsuit after receiving a letter from James Alefantis, the owner of Comet Ping Pong, demanding an apology or retraction.
Jury selection for the trial began Monday at the Travis County Courthouse.
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