AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Lawyers for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones were due to ask a Texas court on Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit against him and his InfoWars website filed by parents of two children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre who accused him of slander, according to court papers.
Jones, who lives in Travis County, Texas, has used his media platform to call the mass shooting at an elementary school that killed 26 people a hoax and suggested a political cover-up took place by left-wing forces seeking to take advantage of the shooting to support their causes, such as gun control.
In 2013, he called the massacre “staged” and continued to stoke his conspiracy theory for years.
“Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake, with actors, in my view, manufactured,” he said in a January 2015 broadcast.
Although his theory is false, people who believe Jones have for years harassed and taunted families of the victims, court papers showed and the families have said. Some families said they have been subjected to death threats and been forced to move several times in an effort to escape harassment.
The lawsuits filed in April by Leonard Pozner, Veronique De La Rosa and Neil Heslin seek at least $1 million in damages. Each claims Jones repeatedly asserted the Sandy Hook shootings were staged and that the parents were liars and frauds who helped in a cover-up, according to court documents.
Jones will seek to have the lawsuit dismissed under a Texas law designed to protect free speech rights against unwarranted attacks, court papers showed.
The parents have said Jones has engaged in a campaign of “false, cruel, and dangerous assertions,” court filings showed.
A gunman killed 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012, in an attack that ranks among the five deadliest mass shootings by a single gunman in U.S. history.
Since founding Infowars in 1999, Jones has built a vast audience. He has also promoted a theory that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington were staged by the government.
The lawsuits in Texas were the first defamation cases brought by parents of Sandy Hook victims against Jones. He is also facing civil action in Connecticut in lawsuits by additional Sandy Hook parents.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Berkrot)