A 13-year veteran of conspiracy website Infowars said in a recent court deposition that he repeatedly attempted to warn staff not to spread obvious lies about the parents of Sandy Hook, only to be met with laughter and ridicule.
“I must have been in that room four to five times, at least, and only to be received with laughter and jokes,” Rob Jacobson, who worked at Infowars from 2004 to 2017 doing video production, testified.
The deposition, which took place in March but was filed into a Travis County court in Texas on Monday, is part of a lawsuit Sandy Hook parent Scarlett Lewis has levied against Infowars and its host, Alex Jones. Jones is being sued by nine family members of loved ones who died in the 2012 shooting after he and his staff spent years falsely claiming that the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut ― which left 20 children and six adults dead ― was a hoax, and that the parents were “crisis actors.”
Jacobson testified that Jones and his staff “got a rush” out of chasing baseless conspiracy theories related to Sandy Hook, including the false claim from Jones that CNN’s Anderson Cooper was standing in front of a blue screen and talking to actors “doing the fake crying” after the shooting.
Jacobson warned staff numerous times about the implications of what they were doing, he said.
“I would make it my business to go in to the writers and explain to them as clearly as possible that there is journalist ethics; and I tried to demonstrate what those ethics are and why they are violating them and what the damage could possibly be,” Jacobson said. They didn’t care, he said.
Jacobson said he was concerned that the only source Jones and his staff seemed to have for their lies about the Sandy Hook parents came from Wolfgang Halbig, an Infowars contributor and notorious harasser of the Sandy Hook parents. Halbig was also recently found to have communicated with a former National Rifle Association official to call into question last year’s shooting in Parkland, Florida, HuffPost reported.
“The fact that they took Halbig’s word for it, and that was the article,” Jacobson said about the reporting process at Infowars. “The article was: Whatever came out of Halbig’s mouth was news.”
When Jacobson confronted Infowars writer Adan Salazar about Halbig, he said he was again mocked.
“Adan Salazar responded with ― and I’m going to quote him because he said it to me many times ― ‘I want to print up a T-shirt that says, “Halbig was right.” I want bumper stickers that say, “Halbig was right,”’ to a laughing room,” Jacobson said.
Jones did not respond to a request for comment.
In an interview with HuffPost, Jacobson said he also confronted Jones directly months before a 2017 interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly.
“I told [Jones] straight to his face: ‘They’re going to come after you for Sandy Hook. This is really bad,’” Jacobson said. “He just stared at me like a deer in the headlights, he had nothing to say. And we just went on our way.”
The former employee described a culture of celebration when new Sandy Hook lies were published. Infowars news director Rob Dew “was overzealous to receive any type of hint that perhaps this might have been a phony act, a staged act. Any type of whisper that came through to him, he would celebrate,” and on-air contributor Dan Bidondi ― described as being “very emotional” ― also “gloms onto conspiracy kind of situations,” Jacobson said.
A primary concern for Jacobson was the fear Jones’ rabid fan base might come after the Sandy Hook parents.
“We do know that [Jones] affects his audience in a way that angers and mobilizes them,” he said in the deposition. And it’s true: Florida woman Lucy Richards was sentenced to five months in prison in 2017 after she sent Sandy Hook father Leonard Pozner a voicemail that warned, “You gonna die. Death is coming to you.” Pozner is suing Jones for defamation.
Jacobson contacted Lewis’ attorney Mark Bankston of the Texas law firm Farrar & Ball after reading about the numerous lawsuits against Infowars. Bankston deposed Jones earlier this year in a surreal scene that showed Jones in the hot seat as he was unable to answer basic questions, including the date the school shooting happened.
“Mr. Jacobson’s testimony confirms the cruelty at the heart of Infowars’ reckless obsession with Sandy Hook,” Bankston said in a statement to HuffPost. “Not only did Infowars spread absurd lies about the Sandy Hook shooting for over five years, but they responded to the distress of the victim’s families with laughter and mockery.”
At times, the deposition became contentious between Bankston and Jones’ attorney, Mark Enoch, as Enoch repeatedly attempted to interrupt Bankston’s questions. Enoch was replaced by attorney Michael Burnett in July to represent Jones. The Infowars host also lost a legal battle last month when he was denied an appeal in a separate defamation case brought against him by Sandy Hook father Neil Heslin. Bankston is also representing Heslin in that case.
Jacobson was ultimately fired by Jones in 2017 and made headlines last year after he filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission claiming Jones and his staff used anti-Semitic language to describe him. The former employee told HuffPost that Jones also called him “Beefcake” for years after Jacobson accidentally clicked a spam link that led to a gay porn website.
But Jacobson’s testimony has nothing to do with him being fired, he said. Instead, Jacobson sees it as a way to seek redemption after staying quiet for so long.
“Just being in that building, it’s such an embarrassment and disgrace to think back on,” he told HuffPost. “I understand I could go into the old ‘I started on an innocent track, I was just interested in the occult stuff,’ but that’s no excuse. I feel ashamed whenever I think back to working there. It’s a total shame and blight in my memory.”
“So yeah, am I squealing on Alex?” he added. “Well, I have a soul to consider.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.