Megyn Kelly’s Needlessly Controversial Alex Jones Interview

When it was announced that NBC News’s Megyn Kelly would be interviewing conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, for her Sunday night show, the reaction was swift and surprisingly fierce.

Denouncement seemed to come from every direction. Notable voices from across the ideological spectrum joined Sandy Hook families in censuring Kelly (and calling for the interview not to be aired) for lending a mainstream platform to a man whose untrue and disgusting allegations about the Newtown massacre have worsened the nightmare for those who lost loved ones that day.

The controversy led to JP Morgan Chase pulling its advertising from the show, the NBC affiliate in Hartford refusing to air it, and Kelly being disinvited from hosting an anti-gun violence event put on by an organization founded by Sandy Hook parents. All of this came several days before the television segment had even been completed, let alone aired. Even released portions of the interview, showing Kelly challenging Jones on his reckless claims, didn’t tamp down the notion that NBC was lending Jones legitimacy by giving him airtime.

It didn’t help that a photograph appeared on Jones’s InfoWars website, showing Jones and Kelly sitting in a car in a pose that some interpreted as comfy. Additionally, many on the Right took exception to NBC News, in their marketing of the interview, referring to Jones as a “conservative radio host” — the suggestion being that he was emblematic of a typical conservative.

Five days prior to the segment being aired, Kelly released a public statement qualifying the interview, and making the case that Jones is already part of America’s mainstream culture. It included the following:

“President Trump, by praising and citing [Jones], appearing on his show, and giving him White House press credentials, has helped elevate Jones, to the alarm of many. Our goal in sitting down with him was to shine a light — as journalists are supposed to do — on this influential figure, and yes — to discuss the considerable falsehoods he has promoted with near impunity.”

Despite the public relations turmoil, the interview segment aired as scheduled on NBC last night, and it’s hard to fathom that anyone who watched it came away believing that Jones and his brand were elevated or in any way aided by the exposure.

Kelly thoroughly dismantled Jones, exposing his dishonesty, sleaziness, and his utter disregard for human decency. She and her team had done their homework, supporting Jones’s pattern of making “reckless accusations followed by equivocations and excuses” with unequivocal facts that left Jones stumped and stuttering. Kelly took him apart not only on his Sandy Hook claims, but on other conspiracy theories (including Pizzagate) for which Jones was legally compelled to recant and apologize for spreading falsities.

The Politico’s Jack Shafer summed up the segment pretty well, writing “Short of waterboarding him, I don’t know what more Kelly could have done to expose Jones’ dark methods.”

Of course, a lot of hay is now being made by Jones about the interview being edited (which of course nearly all pre-recorded news interviews are). Jones is claiming to have recorded the entire exchange himself, and is threatening to release it if NBC News doesn’t. Up-and-coming conspiracy theorist, Sean Hannity, concurred on Twitter last night, demanding in all caps that the news organization “release the tapes.”

Personally, I think NBC News should go ahead and post the full interview on their website, not for the sake of Jones and his ilk, but for the public at large. It’s a pretty common practice, after all, for news organizations to do so, in the case of interviews that are edited for television. There are most likely portions of the uncut exchange that don’t portray Jones as negatively, and even if they were removed because of the controversy, there’s not a great excuse to permanently withhold them.

What I believe requires more serious examination, however, is why the mere notion of this interview became so toxic in the first place. Sure, NBC News made mistakes in how they promoted it, but exposing creeps and evil-doers is nothing new in journalism. Even literal murderers are regularly interviewed by news figures, whether they be the run-of-the-mill Dateline types or foreign dictators, and rarely does giving such people a journalistic “platform” receive this level of push-back.

I think the answer has at least as much to do with with Megyn Kelly as it does Alex Jones. In fact, I believe that if Lester Holt had conducted the interview, there wouldn’t have been such an uproar.

In February, I wrote a piece for National Review describing Megyn Kelly Derangement Syndrome, and how the former Fox News host can’t seem to shake it. Many partisans on the Right came to loathe Kelly for regularly challenging Donald Trump’s candidacy throughout the election (including some of her colleagues at FNC who openly smeared her). When she eventually left Fox (in the wake of the Roger Ailes firing) to work for the left-leaning NBC News, a lot of conservatives viewed her as a sell-out and even — yes — a traitor.

Ridiculous, unfair charges? Of course. But political tribalism makes people see things in a strange light.

Case in point, working as a prominent figure on the right-leaning Fox News Channel for all of those years didn’t earn Kelly goodwill from the Left either. She was very effective on her prime-time FNC show at tearing down liberal narratives and dismantling the arguments of social-justice warriors. And for those perceived sins, she has not been forgiven by progressives.

In other words, despite doing her job in a fair and professional manner, she’s an easy target — a magnet for controversy that wouldn’t otherwise exist or be nearly as dramatic. And that’s a shame for those of us who are interested in bold, honest journalism.

And now, a special message from the President of the United States, concerning the release of John A. Daly’s upcoming novel, Broken Slate.




Alex Jones and the Depraved Conspiracy Culture

Radio host and outspoken conspiracy theorist Alex Jones recently lost a much publicized custody battle with his ex-wife over the fate of their children. Prior to the ruling, Jones had asked the media, for the sake of his children, to be “respectful and responsible” in their coverage of what he called a “private matter.”

It was a reasonable request. After all, going through child-custody proceedings can be a highly sensitive and emotionally trying process. And when one of the parents involved is a public figure, it can be even more painful to the family.

Yet, there wasn’t a lot of compassion to be found for Jones in the news media, especially on social media, where his hardship was widely celebrated and mocked.

One of the more popular tweets came from a man named David Masad, who wrote, “If Alex Jones loses custody of his kids, I hope someone follows him around and claims his kids never existed and were just actors, forever.”

The reference would likely be lost on people who aren’t familiar with the Jones’s history. As founder of the popular conspiracy website, InfoWars, Jones has made some incredibly outlandish statements over the years, some of which have escalated into crusades — crusades wholly believed and even participated in by some of his estimated 8 million listeners.

A lot of these conspiracies have unsurprisingly centered around the government, like the idea that the feds have weaponized tornadoes, or that they hav added chemicals to our water supply to turn citizens gay, or that 9/11 was an “inside job”, or that Hillary Clinton ran a child sex ring managed out of a pizza restaurant. Others have involved alleged satanists and media figures. Jones once claimed that Glenn Beck was a CIA operative, and that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was a secret eugenics program.

But the conspiracy that Mr. Masad touched on is perhaps the most egregious Jones crusade of them all, and it surrounds another story about parents and the pain they’ve gone through over their children. Only, in this story, those children weren’t part of a legal case. They were murdered by a crazed gunman.

You see, Jones, over the years, has perpetuated the notion on his radio show that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of 2012 was actually a hoax, created by the Obama administration, to enact tougher gun-control laws.

“Sandy Hook is synthetic, completely fake, with actors; in my view, manufactured,” Jones told his audience in 2015. “I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids, and it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors.”

As insane as that claim is, a number of demented people have bought into the premise, as illustrated in a piece from earlier this week in The Guardian.

The column’s author, Hadley Freeman, brings to light the heart-wrenching story of Leonard Pozner, whose six-year-old son, Noah, was the youngest victim of the Sandy Hook massacre. Freeman describes the unimaginable pain Leonard has gone through over the years, and adds that even in the wake of Noah’s death, Leonard had yet to see the “worst of humanity.”

“The families were harassed by hoaxers, online and off,” Freeman writes, “insisting that they stop their fake grieving. When Pozner roused himself from his catatonic grief to post photos of Noah online, hoaxers would leave comments: ‘Fake kid’, ‘Didn’t die’, ‘Fucking liar’.”

Freeman continues:

“Pozner has moved half a dozen times since Noah’s death, always staying near Veronique and their daughters, and is moving again soon after our interview. Partly, this is because each move is a new start, ‘and I need that sometimes’, he says. But it is also because he has to keep ahead of the people who, for the past five years, have been sending him death threats, purely because his son was killed in Sandy Hook.

The week before our interview, a judge issued a warrant for the arrest of Lucy Richards. She is alleged to have sent messages to Pozner, including one that read: ‘Death is coming to you real soon and nothing you can do about it.’ That was bad, Pozner agrees, but not necessarily the most unsettling. After all, others have put photos of his house on the web and reported him to child-protection services. ‘This is the world I deal with now,’ says Pozner.”

Freeman’s full piece is a very difficult but important read — particularly important in respect to the popular belief that the conspiracy culture in this country is relatively harmless. In many cases that’s true. After all, Pozner admits that prior to the shooting, he himself was a listener of Jones’s radio show. He viewed the outlandish host as an “out of the box” thinker, and “entertaining.”

But as a whole, this culture trivializes horrifying acts like mass murder, and turns innocent people (sometimes suffering victims) into objects of disdain and harassment. And again, it’s difficult to dismiss these individuals as an insignificant group when 8 million people listen to a man who helped popularize this disgusting fiction known as Sandy Hook Trutherism.

Obviously, when Alex Jones calls for his critics to act “respectful and responsible” when it comes to his children, the irony couldn’t be thicker…but one can’t expect much in the way of introspection from the conspiracy crowd.

Now, it’s important to understand that it’s not Jones’s kids’ fault that their father is a sick creep. It’s also important to recognize that Jones isn’t entirely responsible for this additional, totally unnecessary pain suffered by Sandy Hook parents like Leonard Pozner. The blame must be shared with those who continue to let Jones (and people like him) make a living off of such perversity.

Without website visitors, and radio listeners and guests supporting the effort, someone like Jones could never be afforded the soapbox and the influence that he has. Until that changes, and we as a people place a renewed value on attributes like honesty and shame, the depravity will continue.




Piers Morgan’s Insulting Anti-Gun Crusade

Like 99.9% of the U.S. population, I don’t watch Piers Morgan’s ratings-starved show on CNN. However, when the snarky Brit occasionally manages to earn himself a headline on The Drudge Report through an asinine comment or chaotic interview segment, I’ll find myself checking out the video on YouTube like everyone else. I’m only human, after all.

Morgan’s been showing up on Drudge quite a bit lately due to his outspoken, on-air anti-gun crusade which began after the terrible Sandy Hook shooting. To the surprise of many, however, the segments have been widely praised as informative and productive breaths of fresh air which have offered thoughtful representations of both sides of the gun control issue.

Just kidding! They’ve been nothing more than mindless, embarrassing farces.

Seemingly taking the advice of Rahm “Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste” Emanuel, Morgan has used the Sandy Hook tragedy as a ratings ploy to turn what should be a serious national debate – about how to best protect our children in the classrooms – into a shameless, self-serving, media-circus sideshow.

From reviewing the segments, the regular routine seems to be for Morgan to invite on a gun-rights advocate, pretend to listen to what they have to say for about thirty seconds, then erupt into a blistering and sanctimonious diatribe on how the guest is an ignorant, heartless monster who couldn’t care less about dead children.

The animated displays would be amusing if the premise for the dialogue wasn’t so heartbreaking.

In the early days following the shooting, Morgan took on notable representatives from gun-rights groups. However, he seemed to realize pretty quickly that his arguments didn’t hold up particularly well against informed rebuttals. “You’re an unbelievably stupid man, aren’t you?” a frustrated Morgan resorted to saying to Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, when Pratt called into question Morgan’s proclaimed moral high-ground on the issue.

Thus, the pro-gun guest list has been pared down to twangy gun store owners wearing cowboy hats with rims wider than the top of my kitchen table, and this week, a 9/11 conspiracy theorist who couldn’t manage to fly to New York for the interview without getting into an altercation with TSA agents at the airport.

I must admit that I couldn’t have even told you who the aforementioned conspiracy nut, Alex Jones, was until his viral appearance with Morgan on Monday – this despite the insistence of some of the liberals who comment on my columns that he’s an influential conservative voice. As I watched Jones performing a self-unaware impersonation of Chris Farley while angrily ranting about the forthcoming American revolution, you could read the realization in Morgan’s eyes that he truly was scraping the bottom of the barrel in his own fruitless search for personal relevance. You have to know your argument is pretty shallow when the only person you can win a debate against is an obnoxious man-child who won’t let you speak.

While I don’t doubt that Morgan, as a run of the mill lefty, probably does support crippling gun restrictions in this country, his daytime trash-TV approach to the topic reveals his real motivation behind the silly rants. CNN was obviously hoping for a big payoff from their Piers Morgan experiment two years ago, but things just haven’t panned out. His show has been a ratings disaster. I have no problem with him trying creative things to capture an audience, but I don’t at all like that he’s doing it under the guise of paying homage to the Sandy Hook victims. That’s just classless.

At least when Maury Povich reveals the results of DNA tests to identify the fathers of children, he doesn’t claim to be doing so in the interest of bringing families together.