The Austin Chronicle

Alex Jones Apologizes!

Slander against politicians is one thing; against pizza shop owners, another

By Michael King, March 31, 2017, News

Not sure which is the bigger story: that local radio demagogue Alex Jones issued an apology, or that (mouthing words written by his attorneys) he was capable of being coherent for six minutes. On March 24, Jones posted a video on his Infowars site, reading a letter formally apologizing to James Alefan­tis, owner of Comet Ping Pong, the D.C. restaurant that Jones (among many other dubious media fantasists) dragged into the "#pizzagate" conspiracy-mongering. The online campaign accused Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, and other Democratic Party officials of engaging in a pedophilia ring disguised in pizza orders in Podesta's stolen and leaked emails, with Comet Ping Pong cited as a potential location for nefarious activities – eventually leading one random nutball into a DIY "investigation" that he concluded by firing off a round into the restaurant.

It's one thing to accuse public officials, without evidence, of heinous crimes: as "public figures" under libel law, they have few protections against even the most absurd slander. Private citizens are another matter, and Jones' letter apologizes several times – "I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret," intoned Jones, "and for which I apologize to him." Jones also "regret[s] any negative impact" that Infowars postings may have had on the restaurant or its employees. While Jones denies that Alefantis has any "legal claim" against him, it's clear that Jones' lawyers understood they better scramble before the restaurateur concludes otherwise. (It wasn't long before Jones returned to claiming baselessly that there is indeed a worldwide child-trafficking ring involving prominent Democrats, including Bill Clinton – who, as a public figure, won't be able to sue.)

In December, however, the Infowars site briefly hosted posts making similar accusations against Austin restaurant chain East Side Pies, including brooding "undercover" videos speculating upon imaginary, hideous activities by staff or patrons. ("Pizzagate Targets East Side Pies," Dec. 16, 2016) The videos were eventually pulled down, but not before they generated phone harassment at the restaurant and apparently at least one act of vandalism on a delivery truck. Certainly Jones owes an apology to East Side Pies – not to mention to the rest of Austin, for having built his fortune on this sort of cockamamie, vicious, manufactured nonsense for decades.

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