Don’t legitimize conspiracy theorist
By Heidi Stevens
If you’re of the mind, as I am, that NBC should not air Megyn Kelly’s interview with Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones during prime time on Father’s Day, you can sign a petition saying as much.
Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, wrote an open letter to Kelly on Monday afternoon calling her decision to give Jones a platform, “abjectly wrong and unethical.” The letter includes a link to a petition denouncing the interview.
“Alex Jones is an infamous liar who makes a living preying on the pain of others,” Watts writes. “He has said the bombings in Oklahoma City and at the Boston Marathon didn’t happen. He said the shootings in Newtown, Conn.; Orlando, Fla.; and Aurora, Colo., aren’t real, and the victims’ families are actors. He’s said 9/11 was a false flag.
“His words have consequences,” she continues. “Alex Jones’s followers harass the families of mass shooting victims online and in-person. Alex Jones himself showed up at a Moms Demand Action event in Texas to harass the parents of shooting victims. It’s gotten so bad that a woman harassing Sandy Hook families was recently jailed.”
Late Monday, J.P. Morgan Chase announced it was pulling all TV and digital advertisements from NBC News until after Kelly’s scheduled interview airs. Kristin Lemkau, Chase’s chief marketing officer, tweeted Monday that she was “repulsed” that Kelly would give airtime to Jones.
Kelly defended the interview Sunday, tweeting:
“POTUS’s been on & praises RealAlexJones’ show. He’s giving Infowars a WH press credential. Many don’t know him; our job is 2 shine a light.”
Watts disagrees. “Alex Jones has been in the spotlight for far too long,” she writes. “It’s time to turn that light off and let him crawl back under the refrigerator.”
Others joining the chorus of criticism include Chelsea Clinton, Republican strategist Ana Navarro, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, dozens of family members of shooting victims and the New York Daily News, whose Tuesday front page reads: “He blamed U.S. for 9/11. He denied Sandy Hook massacre. Now NBC’s Megyn Kelly will give conspiracy crackpot prime exposure on NUTWORK NEWS.”
It would be easier to see the interview as an attempt to expose a malicious, underground movement (sunshine is the best disinfectant and all) if Jones didn’t already have his own radio show, Internet news site and the ear of the president of the United States.
A prime-time interview on a mainstream news show serves to legitimize him more than expose him. He’s fully exposed as it is.
“As a journalist, it is incumbent on you to report on the facts – and on all sides of what’s happening in our country today,” Watts writes to Kelly. “As an American, you have an obligation to ensure your audience isn’t misled by the opinions of a madman. As a mom, you must take care that your actions don’t cause additional suffering to grieving parents who already have a load too big to bear.”
I have to agree. The interview feels like a cynical, callous ratings grab. The show, if it goes on, might do well. But to be worth our time, it should also do good.
And I don’t see how that’s possible.
Heidi Stevens is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.