Those questions are at the heart of the sometimes-bizarre battle going on in a Texas courtroom as Jones and his ex-wife spar over custody of their children.
For the first time since the hearing started, Jones has weighed in publicly. It’s unclear why he chose to speak out Friday — or if it’s in any way related to the lambasting he’s received by critics and late-night comedians. There’s an inherent hypocrisy, they say, for a man who yells, growls, cries and spits conspiracy theories for several hours every day to claim his ex-wife is the unstable parent.
In his statement on Friday, Jones called the court hearing a “private matter” and urged the media to be “respectful and responsible and to show due deference to the process of the law.”
It’s about more than a few critical editorials or Jones-centered punchlines by comedians.
Implicit in Jones’s appeal is that he believes the sometimes outlandish conspiracy theories he espouses. So do his loyal listeners, who he says are skeptical of what they hear from politicians and the mainstream media.
That has made Jones, as The Washington Post’s Manuel Roig-Franzia reported, “America’s foremost purveyor of outlandish conspiracy theories.”
Rolling Stone once compiled a list of the seven most outrageous. Among them: Bill Gates’s foundation to help minority students go to college is a secret eugenics program; the government is complicit in terrorist attacks as a means of bringing about martial law and that millions of undocumented immigrants voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election.
Jones has also said the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was a hoax to get Americans to support tougher gun-control laws.
However, Jones has apologized for promoting one recent conspiracy theory: Jones said a Washington pizza restaurant was the site of a sex-abuse ring operated by Hillary Clinton and her campaign adviser John Podesta that was dubbed “Pizzagate.”
Apparently believing the rumors, Edgar Maddison Welch drove from North Carolina and walked into Comet Ping Pong in Northwest Washington with a rifle and a handgun to investigate the claims. He reportedly fired the rifle several times inside the restaurant. Last month, Welch pleaded guilty to federal and local charges. He will be sentenced June 22.
The veracity of that persona is essential to Jones’s empire. It helped him make millions and led to a loyal following — and the ear of President Trump.
According to a Forbes piece in 2013, Jones’s syndicated radio show, YouTube channel and documentaries netted revenue of about $1.5 million per year in 2010 “enough to support a staff of 15 and enable him to buy an $800,000 house and 7,600 square foot studio.”
While he was running for office, Donald Trump went on Jones’s show in December 2015 in an attempt to separate himself from a crowded Republican primary field. And Trump has repeated some of the conspiracy theories put out on InfoWars, including that the mass media is covering up terrorist attacks.
But in Texas, at a pretrial hearing this month, Jones’s attorney said Jones is “playing a character. He is a performance artist.” Another attorney described Jones’s work as “humor” and “sarcasm,” reported Uistin American-Statesman reporter Jonathan Tilove, who tweeted from the trial.
As The Post’s Callum Borcher reported: “These arguments — meant to help the Austin-based Jones win custody of his three children — amount to admissions that he does not really believe all the wacky stuff he says.”
Jones himself has not admitted to having a radio persona, but he told the court he’s not nearly as volatile as YouTube snippets posted by critics would suggest.
Jones testified for three days in the hearing. In the hearing, according to the Statesman, Jones said he considers himself to be “kind and gentle” 95 percent of the time on InfoWars and 99.5 percent at home, although the more emotional moments are picked up more frequently by the media.
But even in the courtroom, he has not exactly played it cool. In an emotional outburst Thursday afternoon, for example, the broadcaster told his ex-wife’s attorney that he has “no decency, zero.”
“You sit here and twist things; I’ve never seen anything like it in all of literature or the movies,” Jones told the attorney. “You have won the award, sir. No decency, zero.”