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 furore 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.
The most devastating segment of Megyn Kelly’s interview with Alex Jones came at the end of Sunday night’s episode of her new show. It involved neither the former Fox News host, nor the Infowars conspiracy theorist who was her guest, but rather the former newscaster Tom Brokaw.
Speaking with passion in a segment about hate on the internet, Brokaw savaged Jones (“and others like him”) as a singularly malicious presence on the Internet. He alluded to Jones’s longstanding claim that the 2012 murder of 20 children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut was a hoax, one of several paranoid concoctions Jones has loudly hawked on his website, right alongside testosterone boosters and survival kits.
Brokaw railed against the “poisonous hate” infecting the nation, an apparent reference to an alt-right ecosystem that has disseminated utterly unfounded rumors: that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was part of a pedophilic network (the loathsome Pizzagate ); that former President Barack Obama isn’t a citizen of the United States. Trumpism, at its heart, may be no more than the mixture of revulsion and paranoia engendered by sites like Infowars.
“It is time to step up,” Brokaw urged Americans. The meaning of that injunction was left somewhat vague, though it seemed to involve more responsible consumption of media and greater civic engagement rooted in a topsoil of rationalism and respect.
Jones had other ideas about Sunday night’s affair. He broadcast his own “review” of Kelly’s show on the Infowars YouTube channel, which made for an odd but enthralling meta-viewing experience: Jones commenting live on a taped interview with Jones. The broadcast lasted four hours. It started, and finished, in the same place as all of Jones’s reporting: incoherent rage.
“Oh, they want the guns,” Jones growled when Brokaw invoked Sandy Hook.
“What a dork,” said Mike Cernovich, an alt-right figure who watched the Kelly interview with Jones in the Infowars studio. Their anger-fueled viewing party involved, for the most part, the suggestion that Kelly had tricked Jones into giving her an interview. Jones had recorded a telephone conversation with Kelly, and she had told him that the interview was “not going to be some ‘gotcha’ hit piece.” As far as Jones was concerned, that had turned out to be a lie.
How did he know? Kelly now worked for the MSM—shorthand for the mainstream media—and that was enough. Were she still toiling in anonymity for the obscure truth-telling outfit known as Fox News, maybe things would be different. Now she was the enemy, no better than liberal billionaire George Soros.
But other than the fact that their conversation was edited—as any other interview would be—Jones could point to no concrete example of Kelly misleading her viewers. Somewhat less substantively, he also complained about a “heat lamp” trained on him (presumably, a klieg light), which he said made him look like a walrus.
“Am I that ugly?” Jones wondered.
To many Americans, yes, and in a way that had nothing to do with his looks. Fury had been building for days that Kelly was giving a national platform to a man who, in earlier days, would have been spouting his delusions under the overpass of the Port Authority Bus Terminal. For all that, Kelly showed herself to be a responsible and assiduous interrogator even if—as with her earlier interview with Russian leader Vladimir Putin—she had little to show for it in the end.
That wasn’t for lack of trying. Using his own words against him, Kelly pressed Jones on his allegations about Sandy Hook, as well as his smear of yogurt company Chobani, which hired refugees and in so doing became the target of his ire. She began the show with a segment of Jones responding to the bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. He’d labeled the victims, many of them young girls, “liberal trendies.”
Asked by a quietly indignant Kelly about that description of slain innocents, Jones retreated into defensive sarcasm: “I’m sorry I didn’t blow ‘em up,” he said with distasteful self-righteousness. “I did something bad, though?” He had no conception of how heartless his response had been, or how deceptive. The “hit” was of his own making.
It was the same with Sandy Hook: Kelly calmly read Jones’s words back to him, while he responded with unconvincing bluster, as if being confronted with his own lies amounted to some shocking breach of journalistic ethics. On the school tragedy, he said he was merely playing “devil’s advocate,” a preposterous position for someone who’d spent years promulgating stunningly ugly untruths.
“I tend to believe that children probably did die there,” Jones said, before alluding to “all the other evidence on the other side.” The very need to hedge that statement—tend to believe, all the other evidence—on national television, no less, reveals the depths of Jones’s pathology.
“Of course, there is no evidence on the other side,” Kelly said.
She didn’t need to.
And although he has had to retract his accusations about Chobani, that was only to end a lawsuit. His conspiratorial beliefs more or less remain intact, as Kelly noted in the midst of Jones’s ranting about how the media had represented what he said about the yogurt company.
“You don’t sound very sorry,” she said.
“Let’s just say Chobani was real happy to get out of that lawsuit,” Jones said, widening his eyes like a comic-book villain. The insinuation was supposed to be an apparent dig at Hamdi Ulukaya, the Chobani founder. But it only made Jones look more deranged.
Like the president he is said to have helped elect, Jones showed himself to be petty, vindictive, unpleasant, chauvinistic, transparently insecure and hopelessly vain.
On his InfoWars viewing party that ran concurrently with Kelly’s show, he ranted as he usually does, sounding like an addled tent-revival preacher who sees demons in every shadow and stops every so often to remind you to put a little something into the collection jar.
He mocked Kelly, including in ways that seemed related to her gender; he called the media “a pack of bloodthirsty liars.”
“They want race wars, they want riots,” added Cernovich, whose contribution included a tirade tying mass shootings to the use of anti-depressants.
The two men, and another guest (Andrew Torba of Gab, a social media network beloved by the alt-right), had spent much of their live show mocking Brokaw, whose appearance they awaited almost with glee. Broke spoke as if he knew they were watching, spewing hate at him like rabies-laced spittle.
“We cannot allow the agents of hate to go unchallenged and become the imprint of our time,” Brokaw said, offering a powerful coda to this third episode of Megyn Kelly’s show.
Kelly may not yet be the first-class interviewer she is plainly striving to become. But those who charged that she was giving Alex Jones too large a stage need not worry, either. She gave his deceptions no quarter.
He came off like a sweaty paranoiac. Nothing condemned him as thoroughly as his own words.