Alex Jones returned to the airwaves almost immediately on Friday after being ordered to pay nearly $50million to grieving Sandy Hook parents – continuing to insist the decks were stacked against him as he blamed George Soros and “operatives” for his legal troubles.
That defiance was in stark contrast to the red-faced, slack-jawed shock that registered on Mr Jones’ face during the trial when it emerged his lawyers had mistakenly sent damning evidence to opposing counsel.
This week, the Infowars media mogul, estimated to be worth around $270 million by one economist witness, lost the first of several trials against him for spreading conspiracy theories and misinformation. He repeatedly insisted that the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut – when a gunman killed 20 six- and seven-year-olds at an elementary school – had been staged as a hoax.
Mr Jones eventually admitted under oath that the shooting was “100% real” and even shook hands with relatives of the victims.
Following the awarding of millions in damages, however, the conspiracy theorist resumed his brash and provocative persona.
In a Friday broadcast, he said that billionaire philanthropist George Soros and an unnamed cabal had “coordinated and run” a campaign against him. Mr Jones also took aim at testifying economist Bernard Pettingill Jr and Judge Maya Guerra Gamble.
“This is beyond any kangaroo rigged court ever,” he said Friday.
Despite admitting in court that the 2012 mass shooting happened – in contrast to his years of claims otherwise and his deer-in-the=-headlights expression when caught out in a lie – Mr Jones’ trademark bullish demeanor was almost a character itself throughout the trial.
During a break on the first day, he held an impromptu news conference just a few feet from the courtroom doors and again used the term “kangaroo court” as well as “show trial,” claiming his fight for free speech under the First Amendment was being railroaded. On the first day, he arrived at the courthouse with “Save the 1st” written on silver tape over his mouth.
When he came to the courthouse, it was always with a security detail of three or four guards. Jones, who wasn’t in court for the verdict, often skipped testimony to appear on his daily Infowars program, where the attacks on the judge and jury continued. During one show, Jones said the jury was pulled from a group of people who “don’t know what planet they live on.”
Some legal experts told the Associated Press they were surprised by Jones’ behaviour and questioned whether it was a calculated risk to boost his appeal to fans.
“It’s the most bizarre behavious I have ever seen at a trial,” First Amendment lawyer Barry Covert, of Buffalo, NY, told AP. “In my opinion, Jones is a money-making juggernaut – crazy like a fox. The bigger the spectacle, the better.”
Kevin Goldberg, a First Amendment specialist at the Maryland-based Freedom Forum, said he found it hard to imagine what Jones might be thinking and what benefit he coud derive from his behaviour.
“I don’t know what it is designed to accomplish other than being on brand for Alex Jones,” Mr Goldberg told AP. “This seems to be a man who has built his brand … on disrespecting the institutions of government … and this court.”
Despite Mr Jones’ attitude, plaintiffs and victims’ relatives felt somewhat vindicated by the trial verdict.
“Alex Jones was held accountable,” tweeted plaintiff Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse, 6, was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre. “Today the jury proved that most of America is ready to choose love over fear and I’ll be forever grateful to them. Ironically, Alex Jones ended up giving me a larger platform to share Jesse’s story and message.”