Megyn Kelly pressed conservative firebrand Alex Jones on his access to President Trump, his unfounded conspiracy mongering and his growing following during the “Sunday Night” interview that drew fierce criticism of Kelly and NBC News.
Kelly repeatedly pushed Jones, the founder and chief host of the Infowars radio and online outlet, to offer a mea culpa for his past claim that the 2012 massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax.
NBC News and Kelly defended the decision to feature Jones on her fledgling newsmagazine series, saying his rising influence made him worthy of scrutiny. Sandy Hook families and others countered that the segment would only spread what Kelly herself called views that “aren’t just offensive, they’re dangerous.” Sandy Hook families urged NBC to reconsider airing the interview. The NBC O&O station serving the Newtown area chose not to air tonight’s episode of “Sunday Night.”
Jones fanned the flames by releasing on Friday audio recordings of his pre-interview conversation with Kelly, in which she assured that she would not present him as a “bogeyman.” During the interview Kelly challenged him about his initial statements on Sandy Hook and his subsequent efforts to backtrack his claim. “That doesn’t excuse what you said about Newtown and you know it,” she scolded.
Kelly also grilled Jones about his assertions last year that Democrats were running a child sex ring out of a Washington, D.C. pizzeria and that employees of yogurt maker Chobani were involved in the sexual assault of a child. Kelly noted that legal threats in both of those instances forced Jones to issue an on-air retractions and apologies. “You don’t sound very sorry,” she said as Jones tried to explain why he agreed to apologize.
Kelly built her reputation during the past decade at Fox News as a sharp and tough interviewer. She joined NBC News earlier this year amid a shakeup at Fox News. With Jones, Kelly challenged his claims and credibility but never seemed to make Jones squirm.
The segment featured comments from a Sandy Hook parent who discussed getting death threats as a result of the conspiracy theory spread by Jones. Charlie Sykes, conservative writer and NBC News contributor Charlie Sykes decried Jones’ role in injecting “toxic paranoia into the mainstream of conservative thought.”
Kelly acknowledged the uproar over her decision to feature Jones in the intro to the segment. She emphasized his connection to President Trump as justification for giving him the platform of NBC’s air. “Alex Jones isn’t going away,” she said, noting that his YouTube channel has skyrocketed to 83 million views a month on average.
Jones tried to downplay his access to President Trump, but he admitted that Trump has called him to talk politics. The segment featured a number of quick cuts showing Jones fulminating about a topic and Trump using the same language just days later.
To underscore Jones’ influence in the White House, Kelly closed the segment by pointing to a recent email from President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to supporters that included a link to an Infowars post. Kelly asserted that Jones at present is expanding his media operations. “Alex Jones goes into battle with a powerful ally,” she said.
“Sunday Night” featured two other segments, one about the growth of marijuana delivery business in California and the rising tide of American expatriates in New Zealand. The episode closed with a commentary from NBC News’ elder statesman, Tom Brokaw, decrying the Internet’s ability to spread hateful views.