In a statement Tuesday, a day after an anti-gun group created by family members of Sandy Hook victims dropped Kelly as a host in its annual gala, Kelly said she understands the event organizers’ decision but added that she’s disappointed.
“I find Alex Jones’s suggestion that Sandy Hook was ‘a hoax’ as personally revolting as every other rational person does,” Kelly said. “It left me, and many other Americans, asking the very question that prompted this interview: How does Jones, who traffics in these outrageous conspiracy theories, have the respect of the president of the United States and a growing audience of millions?”
She added that one of the goals of the interview is to discuss “the considerable falsehoods he has promoted with near impunity.”
Liz Cole, executive producer of “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly,” echoed the host in an interview with CNN’s Dylan Byers. She said people shouldn’t make judgments until they see the interview, which is meant to challenge the right-wing provocateur about his conspiracy theories.
“We’re not just giving him a platform,” Cole said, adding that “viewers will see Megyn do a strong interview where she challenges him appropriately. … That’s the benefit of putting him out there. When someone actually sits down and asks him questions and he has to come up with answers — there’s value to that.”
NBC released a 90-second preview of the interview Sunday. As criticism poured in, JPMorgan Chase reportedly pulled its local television and digital ads from all NBC News programming until after the interview airs, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Sandy Hook Promise, a foundation created by relatives of some of the victims of the 2012 shooting,dropped Kelly as a host for its gala, scheduled for Wednesday in Washington.
“Sandy Hook Promise cannot support the decision by Megyn or NBC to give any form of voice or platform to Alex Jones and have asked Megyn Kelly to step down as our Promise Champion Gala host,” Nicole Hockley, the group’s co-founder and managing director, said in a statement. “It is our hope that Megyn and NBC reconsider and not broadcast this interview.”
Jones himself wants NBC to pull the plug on the interview, saying the network used deceptive editing to misrepresent his views on Sandy Hook.
Jones, a star in the right-wing media universe, reaches millions through his radio show and his website, Infowars.com. The site had 4.5 million unique page views in the past month and more than 5 million from mid-April to mid-May, according to Quantcast. His YouTube channel has more than 2 million subscribers.
Trump, who has appeared on Infowars, once called Jones a “nice guy” and hinted that their mind-sets align. Infowars was given temporary White House press credentials last month.
Cole said that level of influence is one of the reasons Kelly interviewed Jones.
“He’s a controversial figure for sure, but as journalists, it’s our job to interview newsmakers and people of influence no matter how abhorrent their views may be,” she told CNN.
But critics see the interview as a way of normalizing Jones, a polarizing figure who has called the 9/11 terrorist attacks an inside job and peddled a conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta, ran a child sex-abuse ring out of a Washington pizza restaurant.
Others say airing the interview on Father’s Day is an insult to the Sandy Hook parents who lost their children.
Erica Lafferty, daughter of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, called the interview “sickening.” Her sister, Cristina Hassinger, tweeted this on Monday:
Nelba Márquez-Greene, whose 6-year-old daughter was killed, doesn’t buy NBC’s preemptive defense.
“Sounds like something you say when you put profit and controversy over people,” she told The Washington Post via text message on Tuesday. “And the fact that Megyn Kelly hasn’t responded speaks volumes.”
Márquez-Greene told The Post on Monday that she wants to speak personally with Kelly, either on or off the air.
“If they’re going to do the interview, fine,” she said. “But then give us equal airtime to express how dismaying this is.”
She said she doesn’t plan to watch the interview on Sunday.
“Sunday is Father’s Day. On Sunday, I’ll be watching my husband perform a concert in my daughter’s honor for thousands of people,” she said. “Now that is love winning.”
The Jones interview is Kelly’s third since NBC launched her show earlier this month. The former Fox News anchor previously interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin and “Dancing With the Stars” co-host and Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews for NBC.
Travis M. Andrews contributed to this story, which has been updated.