Families from one of the US’s most notorious school shootings have reacted with outcry after NBC broadcast an interview with a leading conspiracy theorist who said the incident never happened and that parents faked their children's deaths.
Alex Jones, host of the Infowars, has claimed over the years that the US government was involved in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the attacks of 9/11. He also said the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook that left 26 people dead, including 20 children, never happened.
Mr Jones has now repeated his comments, including about what he says never happened at the elementary school in Connecticut, in an interview to NBC’s Megyn Kelly. Ms Kelly, who earlier this year quit Fox News, started by asking him if he was the most paranoid person in the country.
She said he had made his reputation by spreading conspiracy theories, including the claim that Sandy Hook did not happen.
“When you say parents faked their children's deaths, people get upset,” she said.
Mr Jones responded: “But they don’t get angry about half-a-million dead Iraqis killed by sanctions.”
Ms Kelly told Mr Jones that his response was “a dodge”. He denied it, adding: “I looked at all the angles about Newtown, I made my statement before the other media picked it up.”
Ms Kelly’s decision to to provide a platform to Mr Jones had raised questions even before she released parts of the interview ahead of its broadcast, scheduled for June 18.
When it emerged Ms Jones had defended his views about Sandy Hook, an incident he said was staged with the use of child actors, some of the parents of the youngsters and teachers killed, wrote to NBC and Ms Kelly, expressing their outrage.
The family of slain teacher Vicki Soto, posted a letter on Facebook, saying they were "disgusted and disappointed" in the decision to air the interview.
“Alex and his followers have done nothing but make our lives a living hell for the last four-and-a-half,” they said.
“This incessant need for ratings at the cost of the emotional well-being of our family is disgusting and disappointing. You should be ashamed of yourselves for allowing this behaviour.”
Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose six-year-old daughter, Ana Grace, was among those killed, said she feared the interview with Mr Jones would encourage other conspiracy theorists who have harassed her and accused her of being part of a hoax.
“Any time you give someone like Alex Jones a platform, their followers will double-down or increase their attack on grieving families,” she told the Associated Press.
“You can’t just put him in a box and say he's just a character. He’s really hurting people.”
Ms Kelly has reportedly defended the decision to interview Mr Jones by saying it her job to “shine a light”.
NBC did not immediately respond to inquiries.
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