Megyn Kelly challenged Alex Jones’ most inflammatory conspiracy theories in a much-anticipated interview that aired Sunday night on her new NBC News show, but Jones ducked her toughest questions.
The 17-minute long interview had prompted a public furor when it was first announced last week, with critics accusing Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly of lending credence to the right-wing radio personality’s views by giving him a mainstream platform. Jones has in the past called the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting a “hoax” and claimed that former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was linked to a child sex ring.
“Some thought we shouldn’t broadcast this interview because his baseless allegations aren’t just offensive, they’re dangerous,” Kelly, a former Fox News anchor, said, “But here’s the thing. Alex Jones isn’t going away. Over the years his YouTube channel has racked up 1.3 billion views. He has millions of listeners and the ear of our current president.”
Kelly had used a similar line of reasoning last week in response to the overwhelming backlash to the Jones interview, claiming that her job as a journalist was to “shine a light” on the “influential” Jones, who despite his “outrageous conspiracy theories,” has the ear of President Trump.
Jones refused to take back his remarks about the Sandy Hook massacre, which led to a Florida woman harassing the parents of one of the twenty children killed in the 2012 attack.
“I do think there is cover-up and manipulation, that’s pretty much what I believed,” he said. “I was going into devil’s advocate but we know there are mass shootings and these things happen.”
“You’re trying to have it all ways,” Kelly shot back.
“No, I’m not,” Jones responded, later adding that he “didn’t create that story.”
Kelly noted in a voiceover that Jones “never completely disavowed his previous statement.” The program also aired the reaction of Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son Jesse died in the shooting.
“It’s disrespectful to me,” said Heslin, referring to Jones’ comments on the massacre. “I take that very personal.”
Kelly questioned Jones about “Pizzagate,” the widely debunked story that Clinton staffers were running a child sex ring out of the a D.C. pizza restaurant. That hoax, which Jones promoted on his show, led to one man storming the restaurant with an assault rifle.
She also grilled Jones on his reaction to the Manchester bombing last month, which left 22 people dead including many children.
MEGYN KELLY: You said, “It was a bunch of liberal trendies who were killed, the same people who are promoting open borders, bringing Islamists in.
ALEX JONES: Yes.
MEGYN KELLY: In response to which, many people looked at the victims, many of whom were 15, 14. There was a little eight…
ALEX JONES: No. I’m sorry I didn’t blow ‘em up. I know. But I did something bad, though?
Kelly referred to Jones’ responses as “classic Alex Jones.”
“That pattern, reckless accusations followed by equivocation and excuses, is classic Alex Jones,” she said.
The immediate reaction to the segment was mixed, with both Kelly and Jones supporters calling it a victory for their side. Many critics concluded that the much-hyped interview was neither as “dreadful” as had been feared nor as hard-hitting as it could have been. Far-right commentators panned the interview as a “hatchet job” and a “hit piece.”
Others said the interview had been “unobjectionable” at best, with Kelly asking “tough questions” but not demanding “hard answers” in return.
Said Slate’s Will Oremus: “We already knew Jones was a liar and a poseur. We learned next to nothing new about the deeper question of how and why he rose to prominence, and what that says about America and the media today.”
Still others, however, retained the view that the segment had provided a mainstream platform to a fringe conspiracy theorist and his outlandish views.
Jones touted the interview as a huge win. Live-streaming his reaction to the segment, Jones ― who raged against Kelly, calling her a “liar” ― popped open a bottle of champagne and toasted his victory.
A scan of social media also shows the interview won Jones a few new fans.