NBC News anchor Megyn Kelly on Tuesday defended her upcoming interview with the conspiracy theorist and Infowars host Alex Jones, saying in a statement that she sat down with him "to shine a light" about the "considerable falsehoods" he peddles.
Families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, have vocally objected to giving a platform to Jones, who has previously asserted that the massacre that claimed 26 lives was concocted by the government. They also criticized the planned airing of the interview with Jones on "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly" as being in poor taste because it coincides with Father's Day.
"I find Alex Jones's suggestion that Sandy Hook was 'a hoax' as personally revolting as every other rational person does," Kelly said in a statement. "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 said that Jones has been elevated by praise from President Donald Trump, who has appeared on his show and granted his outlet White House press credentials.
"Our goal in sitting down with him was to shine a light — as journalists are supposed to do — on this influential figure, and yes — to discuss the considerable falsehoods he has promoted with near impunity," Kelly said.
She also said that she respects the decision by the nonprofit Sandy Hook Promise to drop her as the host of its Promise Champions Gala on Wednesday night in Washington, D.C.
"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, co-founder and managing director of the organization, said in a statement. Hockley's 6-year-old son, Dylan, was killed at Sandy Hook.
Kelly said Tuesday that she is "of course disappointed that I won't be there to support them." Here is her full statement:
Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose 6-year-old daughter, Ana Grace, was killed at Sandy Hook, told The Associated Press that giving Jones a wider platform would only encourage his followers to harass her further.
"You can't just put him in a box and say he's just a character," Marquez-Greene said. "He's really hurting people."
In a preview of Kelly's interview with Jones, she asks the far-right radio host if he considers himself a paranoid person.
"Absolutely not," he responded. "A paranoid person would be hiding out in their house, not venturing out in public. I go out there in the street and battle Black Lives Matter, the communists at point-blank range."
He also called the 9/11 attacks an "inside job" and said the Sandy Hook shooting was "complex."
When Kelly asked him about his falsehood that the Sandy Hook parents faked their children’s deaths, as he claimed in the wake of the rampage, he changed the subject.
"That’s not a dodge," Jones said. "The media never covers all the evil wars it's promoted."
"That doesn't excuse what you did and said about Newtown," Kelly said. "You know it."
"I looked at all the angles of Newtown and I made my statements long before the media even picked up on it," he said, adding that the issue that people should be concerned about are “animal-human hybrids.”
The early outcry over the interview prompted JPMorgan Chase to drop its ads surrounding the show's airing and has created a storm on social media.
JPMorgan Chase's chief marketing officer, Kristin Lemkau, tweeted that "as an advertiser, I'm repulsed that Megyn Kelly would give a second of airtime" to Jones.
But Liz Cole, the executive producer of "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly," asked that critics look at how the entire interview is presented on TV.
Jones is "a controversial figure, but as journalists, it's our job to interview newsmakers and people of influence no matter how abhorrent their views may be," Cole said. "Until you see the full program, in proper context, I would withhold judgment."