Facing multiple defamation lawsuits, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is looking for relief by declaring bankruptcy.
Three companies affiliated with Jones, including his infamous media outlet InfoWars, have filed for Chapter 11 protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas. InfoWars is facing lawsuits from families of children murdered in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting. Jones is being sued for claiming the shootings were a hoax, and created to stir up anti-gun sentiment.
The New York Times’ Derrick Bryson Taylor wrote, “Because of the falsehoods, families of the victims have found themselves routinely accosted by those who believe those false claims. Among those are the parents of Noah Pozner, who have moved nearly 10 times since the shooting, and live in hiding. The Sandy Hook families maintain that Mr. Jones profited from spreading lies about their relatives’ murders. Mr. Jones has disputed that, while for years failing to produce sufficient records to bolster his claims.”
Jones has since said he believes the shootings did happen.
Last September, Jones lost two defamation lawsuits filed in Texas because he did not provide requested information to the court. Then, in November, Jones lost another lawsuit in Connecticut when he refused to turn over documents to the court, including financial records.
Last month, a Connecticut judge ordered Jones to pay $75,000 for failing to appear for a deposition in another defamation case. Jones eventually showed up and was returned the money.
Filing for bankruptcy means the civil suits will be put on hold while the companies reorganize their finances.
Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, died in the Sandy Hook shooting, told The Associated Press’ Paul J. Weber and Dave Collins, “It is what it is. We’ll see where it all goes. He’s tried everything to avoid everything.”
CNN’s Oliver Darcy wrote, “In the court documents filed Sunday, boxes had been checked off indicating that the estimated assets for Infowars and Prison Planet are less than $50,000 and their estimated liabilities are between $1 million and $10 million. Boxes checked off in the document for Infowars Health put estimated assets for that company between $500,000 and $1 million and estimated liabilities ranging from $1 million to $10 million.”
Christopher Mattei, an attorney representing some of the Sandy Hook families, said in a statement, “Alex Jones is just delaying the inevitable: a public trial in which he will be held accountable for his profit-driven campaign of lies against the Sandy Hook families who have brought this lawsuit.”
The latest notable journalism from Russia-Ukraine
- Monday’s breaking news from The Associated Press’ Yuras Karmanau with “Zelenskky: Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine has begun.”
- The Washington Post’s Alex Horton with “Lethal darts were fired into a Ukrainian neighborhood by the thousands.”
- For Grid, Jason Paladino and Anya van Wagtendonk with “Russia’s favorite war propagandist is a Navy veteran from Missouri.”
- For The New York Times, Neil MacFarquhar and Sophia Kishkovsky with “Ukraine War Divides Orthodox Faithful.”
- CNN’s Jeremy Herb with “Zelenskyy rejects ‘tall tales’ his forces need months of training to operate advanced weapons.”
- Washington Post photo editor Chloe Coleman in a column for Nieman Reports: “Don’t Look Away: Photojournalists Are Documenting the Brutality of Russia’s War in Ukraine.”
Tweet of the day
Provocative tweet sent out Monday by Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple:
I am hearing that an announcement at @nytimes regarding newsroom leadership succession is imminent — imminent as in, this week. Managing Editor Joe Kahn is widely viewed as the lead candidate to succeed Executive Editor Dean Baquet.
It has been speculated for some time that Baquet, who is 65, might be moving closer to retiring from the Times. As for Wemple’s tweet, does this mean the move is imminent or simply the announcement of a succession plan is imminent and Baquet will step down at a later date?
Hello and goodbye
Chris Licht, recently named to take over as boss at CNN, announced on Twitter that his first day in the office will be May 2. He also announced that his first day at CNN will be his last day on Twitter.
Licht tweeted Monday, “May 2 will be my first official day in the office at CNN & my last day on Twitter. Twitter can be a great journalistic tool, but it can also skew what’s really important in the world. I’m logging off & looking forward to working with the incredible team at CNN.”
Hmm, wonder how he feels about his journalists on Twitter?
Licht takes over from Jeff Zucker, who abruptly left in early February after a controversy that included a failure to disclose a consensual relationship with one of his top lieutenants. Licht’s most recent job was executive producer and showrunner of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Before that, he helped create MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and was once in charge of “CBS This Morning.”
During an interview with Bill Maher on Maher’s “Club Random” podcast, British TV show host Piers Morgan continued his rambling criticisms of athletes and others who talk about their mental health. Morgan said, “If you now quit, if you now give up and just embrace this new phenomenon of ‘well I’ve got mental health issues,’ whatever the real reason may be. And I’m not doubting sometimes the veracity of that. But you get celebrated more than if you win and I have a problem with that. Eventually weakness becomes celebrated more than strength.”
That’s a dumb and flat-out wrong take, but if that’s how he feels, fine. But then Morgan said this: “I’ve always prided myself on having a stiff upper lip. I think it’s a thing to want to aspire to have. I just think that we are entering a perilous period of society where weakness is celebrated and the stiff upper lip which used to be something that Brits were admired for around the world …” He went on and on repeating the whole “stiff upper lip” thing.
But as The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona pointed out on Twitter: “Piers Morgan literally stormed out of a studio on live TV because he couldn’t take another colleague’s criticism.”
That’s true. Morgan once walked off the set of “Good Morning Britain” when co-host Alex Beresford said Morgan was being “pathetic” and “diabolical” for his relentless criticism of Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.
Stiff upper lip, eh?
ABC News has kicked off weeklong special coverage to commemorate Earth Day, which is this Friday. The coverage can be seen in stories and features across all of ABC’s news programs and platforms, including “Good Morning America,” “World News Tonight with David Muir” and “Nightline.”
Among the more interesting pieces is Ginger Zee — ABC News’ chief meteorologist and managing editor of the climate unit — taking a 2,000-plus-mile road trip in an electric car. She took off from Times Square in New York on Monday and hopes to finish her trip in Miami Beach. She will give live reports throughout the week on “Good Morning America” and “Nightline.” The series examines the expansion of electric vehicles in America, and ABC News will stop at automotive manufacturing facilities and charging stations to bring a clearer understanding of electric vehicle ownership.
In addition to Zee’s road trip, other coverage includes “Good Morning America,” which will feature rock climber Alex Honnold’s trip to Guyana’s Amazon rainforest — a trip he is doing for National Geographic’s “Explorer: The Last Tepui.” On “World News Tonight,” correspondent Kayna Whitworth will report from the Colorado River and how the record-setting megadrought in the West impacts water resources for millions of Americans. ABC News also has partnered with Teen Vogue for a story about the impacts of climate change on mental health in high school students and how to combat eco-anxiety.
Megyn Kelly’s CNN claims
Former Fox News host Megyn Kelly said on a recent episode of her video/audio podcast that she had a “huge” offer to join CNN back when she was with Fox, but turned it down. Speaking on “The Megyn Kelly Show,” Kelly told her guest, radio show host Buck Sexton, that she thought about it but decided against it.
“I said no,” Kelly told Sexton, “because I knew: Who is my fanbase going to be over there? I knew who my fans were and I knew that my Fox viewers were not going to follow me to CNN and that the CNN viewers were going to hate my guts.”
Kelly also took a jab at CNN over reports that CNN+ — the network’s new streaming news service — is struggling for viewers. CNBC’s Alex Sherman recently reported that CNN+ drew fewer than 10,000 viewers per day in the first two weeks of its launch.
Kelly said, “Who is the moron at CNN who actually thought, ‘You know what we need with our ratings in the toilet? More of us. We need more CNN.’”
Mediaite’s Zachary Leeman has more on Kelly’s comments.
Covering the draft from home
Few people are more associated with the NFL Draft than ESPN’s Mel Kiper, who has been ESPN’s draft expert for what seems like forever. This year, he will cover his 39th draft for ESPN. But he will do so from his home in Maryland. Kiper announced on Twitter that he will not be at the draft in Las Vegas because he is not vaccinated for COVID-19.
Kiper said, in part, “I completely support everyone determining what’s best for their individual circumstance and recognize the value of vaccines. Simply put, my COVID vaccination decision is very specific to my own personal medical history.”
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporter Greg Bluestein has a new book out called “Flipped: How Georgia Turned Purple and Broke the Monopoly on Republican Power.” He talks about the book and the current political state of Georgia in the latest “The Bakari Sellers Podcast” for The Ringer.
- New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute has named Astha Rajvanshi, a journalist who writes about human rights and marginalized communities, the winner of its eighth Matthew Power Literary Reporting Award. Rajvanshi will use the $12,500 grant to pursue a story about environmental justice and Indigenous rights in India. The award is named for Matthew Power, who reported on the human condition and died in 2014 while accompanying British explorer Levison Wood in Uganda. Wood was attempting to become the first person to walk the length of the Nile River.
- Philly Magazine’s Victor Fiorillo speaks with author and Temple professor Marc Lamont Hill about the state of media, defunding the police and Hill’s new book.
- Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton with “Attention, Joe Rogan: Spotify now reserves the right to restrict the reach of misinformation.”
- Catching up on news from last week as Fox Weather named Haley Meier the first recipient of its scholarship in partnership with Mississippi State University. In addition to a scholarship for the next school year, Meier will also be offered an internship at Fox Weather. Meier is currently a junior at Mississippi State University majoring in broadcast meteorology. In addition to being a full-time student, she also serves as a weekend morning meteorologist for WTVA-TV in Tupelo, Mississippi.
An extra-long Hot Type today because there are so many good stories to catch up on …
- This might make your blood boil a bit. The Washington Post’s Annie Gowen with “Censorship battles’ new frontier: Your public library.”
- A 32,000-word report from ESPN.com’s Tom Junod and Paula Lavigne: “Before Jerry Sandusky, Penn State football had another serial sexual predator. This is the untold story of his crimes and the fight to bring him to justice.”
- The Los Angeles Times’ Greg Braxton (with photos from Maggie Shannon): “‘Black-ish’ transformed television. Especially when it ‘ran into trouble.’”
- The Washington Post’s Kyle Melnick with “Football, recruiting and 9 p.m. bedtime: The life of a middle school QB.”
- The New York Times’ Matt Stevens with “For a Black Man Hired to Undo a Confederate Legacy, It Has Not Been Easy.”
- The Atlantic’s Sarah Longwell with “Trump Supporters Explain Why They Believe the Big Lie.” It includes this on-the-money paragraph: “For many of Trump’s voters, the belief that the election was stolen is not a fully formed thought. It’s more of an attitude, or a tribal pose. They know something nefarious occurred but can’t easily explain how or why. What’s more, they’re mystified and sometimes angry that other people don’t feel the same.”
- The Guardian’s Nick Duerden with “‘That’s it? It’s over? I was 30. What a brutal business’: pop stars on life after the spotlight moves on.”
- The Ringer’s Claire McNear has a fun Q&A with Vice President Kamala Harris about Wordle in “‘I Have 100 Percent, and I Intend to Keep It That Way’: Kamala Harris Breaks Down Her Daily Wordle Habit.”
- And, finally, another really fun read from The Ringer: “The 50 Best Rom-Coms.” (Although, it would’ve been nice if the Ringer staff had bothered to watch a couple of movies made before, like, 1980. Seriously, no “Bringing Up Baby?”)
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More resources for journalists
- Covering COVID-19 with Al Tompkins (Daily briefing) — Poynter
- A Journalist’s Guide to Covering Jails – St. Petersburg (In-person Seminar) July 2-3 — Apply by April 22.
- Will Work for Impact: Fundamentals of Investigative Journalism (Seminar) — April 27-May 18. Enroll now.
- Becoming a More Effective Writer: Clarity and Organization (Seminar) — May 3-27. Enroll now.
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