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Three parents whose children were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 filed a defamation lawsuit on Tuesday against Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist who has long claimed the shooting was "completely fake" and a "giant hoax" perpetrated by opponents of the Second Amendment.
Mr. Jones, the popular radio show host who also operates the conspiracy theory website Infowars, has questioned for years whether 20 children and six adults died in the school massacre in Newtown, Conn. To bolster his false claims, he often cites news reports and video clips from the hours after the shooting that turned out to be incomplete or based on wrong information.
Soon after they buried their children, many Sandy Hook parents started to come under fierce attack by conspiracy theorists who have said they are actors in an elaborate scheme to enact stricter gun control laws. The fringe theories still thrive in small forums online but have reached a far greater audience through Mr. Jones, the most vocal propagator.
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The two lawsuits filed on Tuesday represent the first civil action taken by parents accusing Mr. Jones of defamation. One was filed by Leonard Pozner and his former wife, Veronique De La Rosa, and the other was filed by Neil Heslin. Their sons, Noah Pozner and Jesse Heslin, both 6, were killed at Sandy Hook.
The suits focus on comments made by Mr. Jones in the past year. In a segment on his radio show called "Sandy Hook Vampires Exposed," which aired on April 22, 2017, Mr. Jones highlighted an interview that Ms. De La Rosa did with Anderson Cooper of CNN after the shooting. While they are standing outside a downtown Newtown building, Mr. Cooper turns his head to face her.
During that quick head movement, Mr. Cooper's nose seems to disappear — evidence, Mr. Jones said, that the interview with Ms. De La Rosa was conducted in a studio. In reality, the glitch is known as a compression artifact, a distortion that is common in video encoding.
Mr. Jones suggests it means they are both actors. "When he turns, his nose disappears repeatedly because the green screen isn't set right," he said.
A few months later, in June, Mr. Jones was profiled on NBC's "Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly," which brought up his past comments about Sandy Hook. Ms. Kelly also interviewed Mr. Heslin, who recalled seeing his dead son.
"I held my son with a bullet hole through his head," Mr. Heslin told her.
But a week later in an Infowars video, Owen Shroyer, who works for the site, argued that it was "not possible" that Mr. Heslin held his dead son because the medical examiner said he showed photographs to the parents to identify their children.
"Will there be a clarification from Heslin or Megyn Kelly?" Mr. Shroyer said. "I wouldn't hold your breath."
The next month, Mr. Jones replayed part of that Infowars video on his show. "The stuff I found was they never let them see their bodies," Mr. Jones said. "That's kind of what's weird about this. But maybe they did."
Both lawsuits were filed in Travis County District Court in Austin, where Mr. Jones lives, broadcasts his show and operates Infowars. The parents are seeking at least $1 million in damages.
"The statements were a continuation and elaboration of a yearslong campaign to falsely attack the honesty of the Sandy Hook parents, casting them as participants in a ghastly conspiracy and cover-up," the parents' lawsuits said.
The parents are represented by Mark D. Bankston, a Houston lawyer who filed a similar defamation lawsuit this month against Mr. Jones and Infowars after they falsely identified a Massachusetts man as the gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Mr. Jones and Mr. Shroyer did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Tuesday morning.
Last June, a Florida woman who believes the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax was sentenced to five months in prison for making death threats against Mr. Pozner in voicemail messages and emails.