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Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones took the stand in his own defense for the first time at his defamation trial in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, telling the parents of Jesse Lewis, one of the 20 children killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that he never meant to harm them by falsely claiming the massacre was a hoax — and insisting he was only interested in the truth.
"I question every big event," Jones said, explaining that he and his Infowars guests simply "debate" controversial news topics, including mass shootings like Sandy Hook and terror attacks like 9/11, and that he is merely a "pundit."
Jones began by addressing Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, Jesse's parents, who testified earlier Tuesday.
During her testimony, Lewis addressed Jones directly.
"Jesse was real," Lewis said. "I am a real mom."
"I believe Scarlett Lewis is real," Jones said shortly after taking the stand. "I believe her son died."
He tried to apologize to the parents while on the witness stand but was told by Judge Maya Guerra Gamble that he could only answer the questions he was asked.
Heslin and Lewis are suing Jones and his media company Free Speech Systems for $150 million for the harassment they've received as a result of the false conspiracy theory spread by Jones and his guests on Infowars, a far-right website that hosts talk shows and other content.
Their lawyer said Monday that the parents have gone into isolation with an around-the-clock security detail after an unspecified number of "encounters" while they've been in Texas for the two-week trial.
Jones claimed that the attack that killed their son, 19 other children and six educators on Dec. 14, 2012, was staged — and that the parents of the slain children were so-called crisis actors employed by the “deep state.”
Lewis said that she believes Jones knows she is not actually a deep-state actor.
"I know you know that. That's the problem, I know you know that," she said, addressing Jones. "But you keep saying it. Why? Why? For money?"
Jones has claimed in court that he has a negative net worth of $20 million, though lawyers for the plaintiffs vehemently dispute that claim. Last week Free Speech Systems filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection.
Jones has already been found liable for defamation by Gamble, who issued a rare default judgment against him in 2021.
The defamation suit in Texas, where Infowars is based, is one of several brought by families of victims who say they were harassed by Jones's followers as a result of his false claims.
Jones coughed repeatedly throughout his testimony. He said he has been suffering from a torn larynx that he developed while hosting his daily Infowars show. Jones has continued to host the show throughout the trial.
On Tuesday, while Heslin was in court testifying about the killing of his son, Jones was on the air tossing out a new baseless claim.
"I think Heslin acts like somebody on the spectrum," Jones said. "He is being manipulated by some very bad people."
Jones was called as the first and only witness in his defense. He will return to the stand Wednesday to complete his testimony.
After the jury was released for the day, Gamble scolded Jones for "abusing my tolerance and making asides to the jury."
"This is not your show," Gamble said. "You're under oath. That means things must actually be true when you say them."
"I believed them to be true," Jones said.
"You believe everything is true," Gamble replied.
After court was adjourned, Lewis approached Jones to offer him water for his cough. Jones offered her an apology, and then shook hands with both parents. One of their lawyers then asked if Jones would also apologize for suggesting Heslin was autistic. A brief discussion ensued, and the parties were separated.
"I think I'm autistic too, buddy," Jones said as Heslin was walking away.