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CNN Special Reports
CNN Special Report: Megaphone For Democracy, Alex Jones. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired August 05, 2022 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNKNOWN (voice-over): The following is a CNN Special Report.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A nation torn apart by lies.
ALEX JONES, CONSPIRACY THEORIST: I say it's treason!
GRIFFIN: One man has been preaching disinformation for decades, Alex Jones.
JONES: We will never give up. We will never surrender.
GRIFFIN: Spreading extremism.
JONES: Joe Biden, burn in hell!
GRIFFIN: Convincing millions of followers.
CROWD: Alex! Alex! Alex!
GRIFFIN: Damaging lives.
NEIL HESLIN, SON KILLED IN SANDY HOOK SHOOTING: Alex Jones lied about Sandy Hook, a tragedy that I lost my son in.
GRIFFIN: Tonight, the disturbing history from the fringe.
RANDY TALLEY, ALEX JONES HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: He could turn his tongue black as if though he were possessed.
GRIFFIN: To making a fortune.
CAOLAN ROBERTSON, FORME FAR-RIGHT PRODUCER: Truth doesn't really matter. It's like a far-right QVC.
GRIFFIN: Threatening American democracy.
JONES: 1776! 1776!
GRIFFIN: Through exclusive footage.
JONES: I'm Donald Trump now.
GRIFFIN: Interviews with former employees.
JOSH OWENS, FORMER INFOWARS EMPLOYEE: We made up the stories. We lied.
ROBERT JACOBSON, FORMER INFORWARS EMPLOYEE: Alex will not stop.
GRIFFIN: His victims.
JAMES ALEFANTIS, OWNER, COMET PIZZA: Every day, I get a death threat.
GRIFFIN: And those trying to stop him.
(On camera): How would you describe him to people who don't know him?
MARK BANKSTON, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILIES OF SANDY HOOK VICTIMS: How do you explain to folks who have never seen something this crazy?
JONES: If they want to fight, they better believe they got a fight!
GRIFFIN (voice-over): "Megaphone for Conspiracy: Alex Jones."
This is Alex Jones's InfoWars studio in Austin, Texas.
JONES: Are you guys ready?
GRIFFIN: It looks like a professional news set, but the similarities end there.
JONES: I'll drink your blood, you understand that? I will -- I will hang your ass up and cut you into cutlets.
The globalists are agents of corruption.
The official story of Sandy Hook has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.
GRIFFIN: A founding father of disinformation, Jones is infamous for his most vile lie, that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax.
JONES: The whole thing was fake.
GRIFFIN: Jones and his followers launched a years-long vendetta against the families of the children who were murdered.
HESLIN: He was fueling this conspiracy theory that the children didn't die, they were actors. Real people were murdered, along with my son.
BANKSTON: It made it impossible for these parents to have closure. All of my clients have received numerous death threats. They've all been in a situation where their lives have been in genuine peril.
GRIFFIN (on camera): Why pay attention to jones?
BANKSTON: There were so many people who said, with Jones, if you just ignore it, it will go away. In order to grow, you didn't need any of the mainstream culture's attention as long as he had that bubble that was allowed to grow and fester uninterrupted. That's what made him a major cultural force. So, ignoring him did nothing for us.
GRIFFIN: That bubble started nearly 30 years ago with a show that would become InfoWars.
JONES: The government said they were going to put poisons and toxins and bioweapons in the vaccines.
GRIFFIN: More than a decade before COVID-19, Jones was spreading dangerous conspiracy theories that now sound eerily recycled.
JONES: The U.N., the World Health Organization, the CDC have all been caught adding sterilizers, cancer viruses, poisons.
GRIFFIN: InfoWars has grown from a fledgling radio show into a multimedia empire that has reached tens of millions.
ROBERTSON: There is a formula. The formula is you find a story that people are upset about and you play it up as much as you possibly can, as extreme as possible in the most dramatic way.
GRIFFIN: CNN spoke in-depth to those who have followed Jones's rise and those who have worked with him. Filmmaker Caolan Robertson appeared repeatedly on Jones's show, made a documentary with him, before realizing it was all a sham.
ROBERSTON: I felt like I was doing the right thing. Like I felt like I was on the side of truth.
GRIFFIN: Robert Jacobson worked at InfoWars for 13 years, then finally had enough.
JACOBSON: He will just lie, straight up lie like nothing is going on, like it's real, and the issue with that is a lot of people believe him.
GRIFFIN: Josh Owens spent four years editing and producing at InfoWars.
OWENS: People always ask me, does Jones believe the things that he says? I don't know if it matters if he believes the things that he says because the people who listen to him believe the things that he says.
JONES: The elites are killing little kids, drinking blood, torturing people.
JACOBSON: Every one of those thought patterns that either the Three Percenters, the QAnon group, the anti-vaxxers, they all originate from Alex. He's the foundation of all this stuff. JONES: Hillary Clinton is a God damn demon. Excuse me. It's not
taking it in vain. She is a demon, damned to hell. Excuse me.
OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: His whole shtick is that there is a war for your mind.
JONES: New world order is run by absolutely ruthless individuals hellbent on dehumanizing the entire human community.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST AND ANCHOR: It's the idea that the shadowy figures in the new world order are really controlling things.
JONES: The fruits of the new world order are hell and death and destruction.
GRIFFIN: Once written off as unhinged, fringe and crazy.
CROWD: Alex Jones! Alex Jones!
GRIFFIN: Alex Jones has become an alt-right influencer, and his theories have become mainstream delivered to a wider audience, often with a violent message.
JONES: I want to break your jaw off and grab it with my hands and rip the mandible off your head. I want to bash your brains out. I want to bring you low.
CHLOE COLLIVER, ONLINE EXTREME RESEARCHER: A lot of Alex Jones's content is deeply dangerous. The nature of his delivery and its violence and its words is effective, I think, in drumming up anger and really playing on people's sense of fear and anxiety.
JONES: If they want a fight, they better believe they have got one.
GRIFFIN: Some who listen to Jones have committed acts of violence. One killed police officers. Another fired shots at the White House. Another opened fire in a D.C. pizza restaurant. And on January 6th, 2021, Alex Jones and his influence were on full display at the U.S. Capitol.
JONES: Stop the steal! Stop the steal!
GRIFFIN: Long before they became infamous on January 6th, leaders of the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the Stop the Steal movement all were deeply connected to Alex Jones.
BANKSTON: Once you start looking at all the different places he appears in our culture, you understand that he has had an outsized level of influence for somebody like him, and part of that is because he was able to fly under the radar for so long.
GRIFFIN: Jones grew up in a small suburb of Dallas where even as a young man he would act out and spin tall tales. Bo Durham was a friend from Jones's neighborhood.
BO DURHAM, ALEX JONES'S HIGH SCHOOL CLASSMATE: There was a lot of strange things going on in that time with him. There were a lot of things that I witnessed that were -- that people didn't do.
GRIFFIN: Friends claimed he memorized the bible, talked about Satan, and at times seemed possessed.
DURHAM: He would talk in tongues a lot. He would get into these trances.
GRIFFIN: High school football coach Randy Talley said Jones craved attention.
TALLEY: I don't believe in any witchcraft, hocus pocus or anything like that. But he could turn his tongue black and his mouth black, and he would stick his tongue out and shake his head as though he were possessed.
DURHAM: He could turn his tongue black. I saw him do that on a couple of occasions.
GRIFFIN (on camera): You're the second person who's told me this.
GRIFFIN: I don't get it.
DURHAM: I don't either. He would have to be really spun up and in that -- kind of in that state where he was really upset. He would stick that tongue out and it would literally go black.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): And he was violent.
JONES: Once I hit puberty, I became somewhat of a hellion, a lot of fighting.
GRIFFIN: Including one fight that would change his life. For years, Jones told viewers a story of why he and his family had to leave suburban Dallas and why he's obsessed with government corruption.
JONES: They were having an auditorium meeting about drug testing. They had cops up there that I knew were drug dealers. I stood up and I said, I was at a pool party, he was selling cocaine and ecstasy last week. They took me in an office, ran my head in the wall, told me, we're going to kill you. They said, you're going to move out of this town right now.
TALLEY: That's the furthest thing from the truth. I can unequivocally deny that that ever happened.
GRIFFIN: Randy Talley and others who spoke to CNN remember it differently. Not a fight involving a corrupt police force but Alex Jones attacking another student named Jared Morrow.
TALLEY: I saw Jared's feet go up in the air, and then I saw Alex drop down which, you know, they call it a piledriver, and he, you know, pile derived him.
GRIFFIN: Jones slammed Morrow head first into the floor.
Morrow tells CNN he suffered a concussion and nine skull fractures that will not heal.
TALLEY: As far as fights go, that was the most brutal that I had seen.
GRIFFIN: After Alex's fighting troubles, the Jones family would quietly move to Austin
JONES: Hello, Austin, Texas. I'm Alex Jones.
GRIFFIN: In the mid-1990s, Jones would eventually find the attention he craved, spreading lies, conspiracy theories on public access cable TV.
JONES: I'm trying to get the information out to you folks.
I had a camera about a foot away from my face, and I was controlling the systems myself. And I went live, and I talked for an hour.
So sick of wimps and scum. Filthy scum everywhere. Weaklings that never got in a fist fight.
KELLY JONES, EX-WIFE OF ALEX JONES: There is no social media, right? So, what this was basically was sort of a local YouTube. Anybody can have a show.
RUSSELL DOWDEN, FORMER INFOWARS MAGAZINE MANAGER: Alex inspired a lot of folks. There were 20 Alexes on the air at that time. A lot of guys were doing very similar things. But he stood out.
JONES: Yes, black helicopters are being used for surveillance of the public.
K. JONES: So, it's maybe a little bit more risky.
GRIFFIN: Kelly Jones, Jones's ex-wife, met and worked for him at the Public Access Station. They would later fall out in a bitter divorce.
K. JONES: If you ever spend any amount of time with him, like he's not like you or me. He's abnormal. Like he's really strange and weird.
JONES: I'm a weird son of a gun. Man, of course, I'm weird.
GRIFFIN: That weirdness mixed with his charisma would make Jones an Austin superstar. He would get a time slot on a local radio station that later went national.
K. JONES: When he was younger, he was very articulate, very dynamic. He looks great on camera.
GRIFFIN: He would pull stunts, demanding attention on Austin's street corners.
JONES: This is how George Bush dresses.
Got a radio show, got these TV shows.
UNKNOWN (voice-over): We will continue to keep you posted on what's going on in Oklahoma City.
GRIFFIN: He would spin major news events no matter how tragic into darker conspiracy theories.
JONES: The government had prior knowledge and was instrumental in engineering the attacks on the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.
UNKNOWN: Today's attack at Columbine High School could be the worst mass shooting in United States history.
JONES: Columbine we know was a false flag.
GRIFFIN: He took advantage of a new form streaming on the internet at a time when half the country didn't yet have access to the web.
JONES: And don't believe me. Go to InfoWars.com.
GRIFFIN: By September 2001, Jones had built a following willing to believe just about anything.
UNKNOWN (voice-over): Police have cleared off all the streets.
GRIFFIN: Then on a clear Tuesday morning, September 11th, Alex Jones, who had spent a lifetime trying to get attention, would see a tragedy as his biggest opportunity yet.
JONES: We have been predicting this nightmarish development for years.
GRIFFIN: In the aftermath of the attack on New York amid billing smoke, the search for missing loved ones and a nation seeking a way forward, Alex Jones would spread the lie that his own government was to blame.
JONES: I'm telling you right now, 90% chance it came from the U.S. government or from the E.U.
AVLON: The critical moment over the arc of Alex Jones's life is when he seizes on what's called the 9/11 Truther Movement, which really should be called the 9/11 hoax movement, that 9/11 was an inside job.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FOMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America today is on bended knee.
GRIFFIN: The outrageous lie that the government of George W. Bush had plotted, planned, and aided the attack. Believers would come to be known as Truthers.
JONES: My friends, the government just didn't have prior knowledge of September 11th al-Qaeda attacks. They actually funded, trained, protected al-Qaeda into this country.
GRIFFIN: Even for a majority of the stations carrying his radio show cancelled it.
JONATHAN TILOVE, FORMER CHIEF POLITICAL WRITER, AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN: Everything that was supposed to destroy him did have a negative impact but also catapulted him to a higher level.
GRIFFIN: As Jones would explain in an interview years later obtained by CNN, his 9/11 lies made him a conspiracy superstar.
JONES: It launched this whole cult deal in the whole world. I didn't realize how big it was. I was the leader of the 9/11 Truth Movement.
9/11 smoking guns.
AVLON: He starts putting out these videos that are adjuncts to his radio show and in his internet show, spreading these conspiracy theories and starts to build a cult-like following around these lies.
JONES: Stop making excuses for what they're doing to us!
ROBERTSON: When Alex goes on camera and he gets himself riled up and starts shouting and starts getting hysterical, it's what his audience feel like inside and he played the character that they wanted to hear for them. The angry, furious person that wanted to take back America.
GRIFFIN: 2008 brought Barack Obama, a new slew of conspiracy theories, and more success for InfoWars.
JONES: Ladies and gentlemen, Barack Obama is not my king. He is not my master. He is not my lord. He is nothing but a mask of the globalists.
JOE BIGGS, FORMER INFOWARS STAFFER: Joe Biggs here with InfoWars.com. Now we're standing in front of the Islamic Center of America.
GRIFFIN: He would stir up fears of Muslims taking over the United States for years and sent Joe Biggs, who would later become a leader of the Proud Boys, on so-called reporting trips across the country. Former InfoWars employee Josh Owens was part of the production team.
OWENS: They wanted us to go to these majority Muslim communities and report on why are these people in these communities, what's going on, it seemed suspicious. You know, there was nothing to it.
GRIFFIN (on camera): No Sharia law overruling the United States government? OWENS: No, no, but that's what Jones wanted. We made up the stories because there was nothing to report on. In essence, we lied.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): And with the growing popularity of social media, Jones finally had the outlet that would be a perfect amplifier for his outrage.
DARCY: A lot of his clips would go viral. Alex Jones used platforms like Facebook, like Twitter, like YouTube, to draw people in.
COLLIVER: They would promote and amplify the kind of content that gets people most engaged.
ROBERTSON: He knew that if he made videos that were more extreme, more outrageous, more shouty.
JONES: Clean them out!
ROBERTSON: YouTube would give it to people that weren't looking for him. And around 80% of their views were from YouTube recommendations, were from people who weren't looking for his content. A huge amount of InfoWars's success was the algorithms.
GRIFFIN: Court documents show InfoWars's audience nearly doubled in four years.
JACOBSON: He wants to give people what they came there to get.
GRIFFIN (on camera): True or not.
JACOBSON: True or not.
When there was a mass shooting, there was a definite get everything you can to try to prove that it was a false event.
UNKNOWN (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Connecticut state police have responded to reports of a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
UNKNOWN: The bodies of those children are still in the school.
UNKNOWN: Twenty children, six adults, and the shooter. Twenty-seven total.
JONES: Don't ever think the globalists that have hijacked this country wouldn't stage something like this. They kill little kids all day every day.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): The day of the Sandy Hook shooting proved nothing was off limits, even the slaughter of children.
JONES: I said they are launching attacks. They are going to come after our guns, look for mass shootings. And then magically, it happens.
GRIFFIN: Jones claimed it was a government plot, a false flag. The grieving parents, crisis actors.
JONES: You've got parents laughing, and they walk over to the camera and go hu-hu.
JACOBSON: What Alex and the crew was doing was accusing parents of an unspeakable tragedy of being liars as well. It was the grossest level of insult I could imagine.
JONES: The whole thing is a giant hoax.
BANKSTON: People tend to think, well, Alex Jones maybe got on the show a couple times and said Sandy Hook was fake. And the reality is that it was an obsession he could not let go off.
GRIFFIN: Jones's audience ate it up. One InfoWars article claiming FBI says no one killed at Sandy Hook was viewed more than three million times.
BANKSTON: There have been Sandy Hook fanatics who would show up at families' houses and start banging on their door. They continually harass these parents.
HESLIN: I don't think you can find a lower person than somebody like Alex Jones.
GRIFFIN: Neil Heslin lost his 6-year-old son, Jesse, in that shooting.
HESLIN: Alex Jones has put a lot of lives in danger, a lot of families' lives in danger and at risk.
GRIFFIN: He and others have sued Jones over his lies. Mark Bankston is the attorney representing some of the families.
BANKSTON: At InfoWars, there is a nearly bottomless well of hatred and cruelty. They do not care about the typical things that you would expect a reasonable, rational person to care about.
GRIFFIN: Jones would hire pro-wrestler Dan Bidondi to cover Sandy Hook for InfoWars. And Bidondi harassed city employees.
DAN BIDONDI, COVERED SANDY HOOK SHOOTING FOR INFOWARS: The Sandy Hook truth is coming out, you people are going to jail.
GRIFFIN (on camera): It looks like you were just trying to drum up conspiracies. Kind of make a spectacle of yourself, really.
BIDONDI: It's not conspiracy, guys. I mean, it's just --
GRIFFIN: It's complete conspiracy theories.
BIDONDI: No, because most American public was thinking the same thing. I mean, how can we trust -- how could the -- GRIFFIN: Most of the American public, I guarantee you, was not thinking that it was fake and these were crisis actors.
BIDONDI: No, no one was saying it's fake but there is --
GRIFFIN: Crisis actors?
BIDONDI: I didn't say that. The thing is, I know they're not crisis actors. I went to the gravesites. I mean, the memorial and everything was sad. It was heartbreaking to see --
GRIFFIN: You were all part of it, Dan.
BIDONDI: No, I was just asked to do my job. That's all.
GRIFFIN: You were part of that whole conspiracy theory and part of that pain.
BIDONDI: It's still the First Amendment.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Alex Jones never responded to multiple CNN requests to be interviewed for this program but talked about Sandy Hook in a deposition.
UNKNOWN: So, you do not believe that you've done an outrageous wrong to these parents?
JONES: I have not -- no, I have not done an outrageous wrong to the parents. I myself have, you know, almost had like a form of psychosis back in the past where I basically thought everything was staged. You know, even though I've now learned a lot of times things aren't staged. So, you know, I think, as a pundit and somebody giving opinion, that, you know, my opinions have been wrong, but they were never wrong consciously to hurt people.
HESLIN: To say Jesse never existed, he never died, you're defaming this little boy. That's a 6-year-old boy. Just awful. There are no words for it.
JONES: Donald, thank you joining us.
GRIFFIN: It was this Alex Jones that in 2015 was singled out, sought after by a presidential candidate named Donald Trump.
JONES: This is what all elites end up doing. Raping and killing children dressed up like a werewolf.
You want to fight? Get ready because you're going to get it, assholes.
GRIFFIN: Alex Jones had established himself as the king of conspiracy theories.
JONES: They put cancer viruses on record in the vaccines! GRIFFIN: And learned early on his lies could make him cash. JONES: Buy the books, the films, the pro-gun, T-shirts. You also need to plant a garden.
I was in my late 20s. I was making as much money as an NFL quarterback. One of the best videos I produced.
GRIFFIN: At first Jones was selling DVDs and survival gear.
JONES: The globalists are filling our water with radioactive isotopes.
BANKSTON: m If you go and look at the InfoWars store, it is a mall of things to buy if you think the world is ending.
JONES: Silver bullet from InfoWarslive.com.
GRIFFIN: In 2013, Jones would discover he could make a fortune selling health products like vitamins and supplements under the InfoWars brand.
JONES: I take products that block the estrogen mimickers that basically feminize men.
K. JONES: The vitamins came in right around the time of divorce, and then he became just like astronomically rich.
GRIFFIN: How rich? Jones has guarded details of his business. But court documents show a massive inflow of money, often hundreds of thousands of dollars a day, adding up to more than $165 million in revenue over a three-year period. Much of that money from stoking fears.
JONES: I know like three or four people that have family or themselves have brain tumors suddenly, kids, from fungus.
GRIFFIN: When Jones pushed a new product and hyped concerns about bacteria and fungus, he raked in more than $800,000 in two days.
ROBERTSON: When I went to Austin and spoke to Alex about how much they actually make is on another planet.
GRIFFIN (on-camera): A staggering amount.
ROBERTSON: Totally staggering. How long do you take a live round?
JONES: Five minutes.
ROBERTSON: Five, OK.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Caolan Robertson had inside access to the InfoWars operation.
ROBERTSON: He'll say buy these products, buy these products, and at the end, the first thing he'll say when he goes into the briefing room after a show is what were the sales during the show. As in, how many people signed up? Live, while it was broadcast. Not, was it a good show? Did we expose the truth? So, truth doesn't really matter at all.
GRIFFIN (on-camera): Basically, a three-hour a day infomercial to sell pills.
ROBERTSON: Yes. It's like a far-right QVC.
OWENS: I ended up editing the very first ad for the very first private label product that he put out, which was an iodine supplement called Survival Shield.
JONES: Fukushima blows sky high.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): The iodine drops were marketed as protection from nuclear fallout. Jones sent a team to California to find radiation from Japan's Fukushima disaster.
OWENS: None of us really knew how to use a Geiger counter. We just posted video saying that we weren't finding elevated levels.
GRIFFIN (on-camera): And how was that received?
OWENS: They had never seen him so angry because we were posting what we were finding. I started to get the idea, like, okay, maybe our job isn't to report the truth, maybe our job is to report what Jones thinks the truth is.
GRIFFIN: And to sell pills?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are unanswered questions.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Another InfoWars contributor Anthony Gucciardi said in a 2014 court document obtained by CNN, he would write about topics to promote the brand and sell products. One example, Ebola.
ANTHONY GUCCIARDI, INFOWARS CONTRIBUTOR: They said Ebola is a real threat. That outbreaks are actually happening in the United States that are going unreported.
GRIFFIN: Viewers weren't told Gucciardi was also getting a cut of the supplement business.
K. JONES: I think it's important for people to understand that they are paying money to and aligning themselves with an outlet that is entirely deceptive and that just wants your money.
GRIFFIN (on-camera): It sounds like a grift, really.
K. JONES: Yes, I think that really is what it is. It's a con. JONES: You've got the great brain pill Nootropic.
ROBERTSON: He would joke about people that would buy the products. When I first met Alex, I said that I had bought his brain force thing. Then he was like surprised. I said why? It's kind of like the people that buy his stuff are silly?
JONES: We're closer to World War III than this planet has ever been.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): As the money poured in, Jones puts some back into the business making sure his show looked like a real newscast.
JONES: This is the third (INAUDIBLE) we built.
ROBERTSON: And everyone is rushing around him with scripts and show plans, and it's like a military operation to make it technically perfect and totally perfect, yet he's going on air and saying completely outlandish and saying ridiculous, over-the-top (INAUDIBLE), so it was a very strange contrast.
GRIFFIN (on-camera): How does he decide what goes on that show?
OWENS: It all comes from Jones's brain. You can tell that a lot of it is off the cup. A lot of it is coming from an emotional place, a reactionary place.
GRIFFIN: His behavior off the air, I have heard, could be even violent.
OWENS: Yes, there was physical violence. Jones used to play these punching games. He punched an employee so hard that his arm split open. I mean, there was blood on his shirt.
JONES: America is back.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Jones's emotional place was macho, alpha male, and always on the attack.
JONES: It's time for good people who have the real streak of life to stand up against this filth.
GRIFFIN: And in 2015, that would play right into the hands of a presidential candidate sharing the same message.
JONES: Donald, thank you for joining us.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Alex. Great to be with you.
GRIFFIN: Alex Jones would explain how it was Roger Stone, Trump's longtime ally, who initiated the strategy of putting Donald Trump side by side with InfoWars.
JONES: He contacted me and said, I'm about to publish books about the biggest enemies of Trump and I believe that we can take them out with how corrupt they are. This will pave the way to get Trump in, and he's one of us, he's a nationalist.
TRUMP (voice-over): I just want to finish by saying your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.
COLLIVER: That movement encapsulates the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and hate that we've seen in U.S. politics.
JACOBSON: After that, it became frighteningly Trump in Alex's office. It was like, wait, this place is extremely polarized towards one candidate and it's never been this way before. Sort of a momentum change. JONES: Hillary is into like creepy weird sick stuff.
GRIFFIN: Jones went all in as only he could. Hillary Clinton, Trump's opponent, would be labeled satanic.
JONES: I've talked to people that are in protected details. That means they're scared. And they said listen, she's a freaking demon and she stinks, and so does Obama. And go like, what, sulfur.
JONES: They smell like hell.
GRIFFIN: During the 2016 campaign, Jones began targeting Democrats with one of his most unhinged conspiracy theories.
JONES: Pizza Gate is real.
AVLON: Pizza Gate is a conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and leading Democrats were engaged in a satanic pedophilic cabal that in this case was meeting in the basement of Comet Pizza in Washington, D.C.
JONES: You have to go investigate it for yourself.
GRIFFIN: One of Jones' followers, Edgar Welch, did just that.
ALEFANTIS: He kicked in the kitchen doors and then proceeded to shoot at a locked door. The bullets pierced through here.
GRIFFIN: Behind that locked door, just a closet. James Alefantis, who owns the restaurant, says there is no doubt who's to blame.
ALEFANTIS: This gunman had been directly motivated by a video by Alex Jones. Every day, I get a death threat. It's been five and a half, six years since this has happened, and it really fundamentally changed my life.
GRIFFIN: On the verge of the 2016 election, polls showed Hillary Clinton leading. Alex Jones and Roger Stone pushed a new conspiracy to try to explain why Trump may lose. It was the birth of Stop the Steal.
JONES: You're having your republic stolen in front of you.
GRIFFIN: Then Trump won. WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, a historic moment. We can now project Donald Trump wins the presidency.
GRIFFIN: InfoWars would rake in $850,000 in sales in its most lucrative day in three years. A president who pushed lies, conspiracy theories, and disinformation was heading to the White House. With Jones's help, the info war against a democracy was put in motion.
GRIFFIN: With Trump in office, Jones and InfoWars were riding high.
JONES: I talk to the president and I talk to people who talk to the president every day.
GRIFFIN: Jones took credit for Trump's win, told followers and those around him he had Trump's ear.
OWENS: Jones said it all the time. Just got off the phone with Trump. Trump just called. Had an interesting conversation with Trump.
GRIFFIN (on-camera): Believe it?
OWENS: I don't know.
ROBERTSON: He showed me text messages he had shared with Trump while Trump was in the White House. That shocks me. I thought that as soon as Trump took office, he would not speak to any of those people, but they had like a relationship going on.
GRIFFIN: Was it a conversation?
ROBERTSON: More so from Alex's side, but there was a two-way conversation going on that I assume he was trying to convince him to come on InfoWars, which Alex really wanted. To come on again.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Trump never came back on InfoWars, but it didn't matter. Money was rolling in. Jones appeared invincible.
JONES: The truth is my average video was getting like three or four million views.
GRIFFIN: But behind the scenes, something had changed.
JONES: I was going to say, I never would have on that front.
GRIFFIN: Social media companies had begun taking tougher stances on hate speech.
JONES: They decided to de-platform my billions and millions of views and millions of followers off of everything from iTunes to Google to YouTube to Spotify. GRIFFIN: Jones would blame the scrutiny of InfoWars on his alignment with Trump. Caolan Robertson captured these candid moments while making a documentary with Jones and shared them with CNN.
JONES: I'm so sick of Donald Trump, man. God, I'm sick of him. But I'm out doing this because this is like I'm kissing his ass, you know.
GRIFFIN: Jones struggled with his words, asked for a re-take.
JONES: Yes. This is the real quote because what I said earlier isn't accurate, so please use this quote.
I'm really glad that I backed Donald Trump three years ago, three and a half years ago for president. But that said, being sucked into that whole vortex has live quite instruction -- I'm sorry, I'm going to get it straight this time. This is really important, what I'm going to say, and I'm just trying to get this exactly right and exactly truthful.
GRIFFIN: He tried again.
JONES: So, Trump came to get my populous audience and then he did that. The Democrats saw it as a threat. They attacked it and said I was Donald Trump. They wouldn't hurt him. It made Trump stronger, it made him win the election.
And so, they understand that Donald Trump is InfoWars and I'm Donald Trump now. And it's like a ring of doom. We've been merged together into this -- into this thing, and they are obsessed with it. And it's some bizarre form of alchemy that I don't understand.
GRIFFIN: Despite his feelings when Trump announced he would run for re-election, Alex Jones was right back on board.
JONES: What the Democrats and the globalists are doing is insurrection against the country.
GRIFFIN: He would attack the Bidens and lie about a rigged election.
JONES: Dark forces trying to steal the election.
BLITZER: Voters are in the final hours of making a monumental decision.
GRIFFIN: As ballots were being counted across America, it was becoming clear Trump was about to lose.
TRUMP: They are trying to steal an election. They are trying to rig an election, and we can't let that happen.
GRIFFIN: There is no doubt it is Donald Trump who is most responsible for millions of people believing the lie that he won and the election was stolen, but it is undeniable it is Alex Jones who spent months telling his followers to revolt.
JONES: They will be hiding. They will pay. They will be destroyed because America is (INAUDIBLE).
JONES: If they want to fight, they better believe they have got one.
GRIFFIN: Immediately after the election, Jones would appear at rallies across the country with his bullhorn.
JONES: Joe Biden, burn in hell.
GRIFFIN: And an armored vehicle.
GRIFFIN: Resurrecting the slogan that Roger Stone had coined in 2016, "Stop the Steal."
JONES: Stop the steal! Stop the steal!
GRIFFIN: Raising money, firing up crowds, running sales on InfoWars, and calling his followers to action.
JONES: Everybody needs to be around that White House supporting it. They need to see patriots in the streets of D.C.
CROWD: Alex! Alex! Alex!
The fight has just begun! The fight has just begun!
GRIFFIN: Each speech aggressive and foreboding.
JONES: We will never give up. We will never surrender. We will never back down to the satanic pedophile globalist new world order.
GRIFFIN: Even other organizers planning "Stop the Steal" rallies like Dustin Stockton say Jones was going too far.
DUSTIN STOCKTON, ORGANIZER, 2020 PRO-TRUMP RALLIES: We could sense that like this was a really volatile situation. We also were trying to keep it from crossing that line into violence. They are firebrands and when you are doing that, it's kind of an exponential growth is like how outrageous you have to be.
GRIFFIN: On December 19th, 2020, Donald Trump tells his followers, "Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there. Will be wild." Alex Jones never looked back.
JONES: We just -- people start going to D.C. now. Don't wait. Go to D.C. Go to D.C. Go to D.C. Go to the White House. Just go to the White House. Go, go, go!
UNKNOWN (voice-over): January 6th, fight for Trump. GRIFFIN: His show became a commercial for Trump's rally. And on New Year's Eve, InfoWars guest host Matt Bracken said this.
MATT BRACKEN, PODCAST HOST: We're going to only be saved by millions of Americans moving to Washington, occupying the entire area, if necessary storming right into the Capitol.
GRIFFIN: Jones told his audience he was intimately involved in the planning of the January 6th rally.
JONES: I put the money down because this is all private, folks. It was hundreds of thousands of dollars. And then a big donor came through and took care of that for us. It's not about me bragging. It's just so people know the history.
GRIFFIN: As crowds gathered in Washington, D.C. on the night before the big rally, Jones would warn of a coming battle.
JONES: This will be their Waterloo. This will be their destruction.
GRIFFIN: The next day, Jones was front and center for Trump's speech.
TRUMP: We're going to walk down to the Capitol.
GRIFFIN: With megaphone in hand, Jones then led a crowd to the Capitol.
JONES: Let's go take our country back. It's only minutes away. Let's start marching to the Capitol!
GRIFFIN: When he arrived, it was chaos. Trump supporters were in hand- to-hand combat with police.
JONES: Let's march around to the other side. And let's not fight the police and give the system what they want. We were peaceful.
GRIFFIN: The west side what anything but peaceful. As Jones was leading a crowd to the other side, the Capitol was breached. Jones arrived on the Capitol's east side, climbed steps packed with rioters and called for peace but also revolution.
CROWD: 1776! 1776!
JONES: We want (INAUDIBLE). New world order.
GRIFFIN: Jones sees it all and takes off.
JONES: Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump!
GRIFFIN: Just minutes after Jones left, a mob trying to force the East Capitol doors would push their way through. From a perch overlooking the Capitol, he would rejoin InfoWars broadcast and start a new conspiracy theory.
JONES: This is a bureaucracy. Antifa started this, we're pretty much sure. GRIFFIN: These were Trump supporters, including extremists with deep ties to Alex Jones.
CROWD: USA! USA!
GRIFFIN: As federal agents zeroed in on January 6th.
UNKNOWN: Love you, Alex Jones!
GRIFFIN: Alex Jones's influence was on display.
UNKNOWN: If you want a fight, you better believe you've got one!
GRIFFIN: His own employees face criminal charges from an InfoWars's editor who streamed the riot.
UNKNOWN: It feels good to be in the Capitol, baby.
GRIFFIN: To InfoWars host Owen Shroyer, who was right by Jones's side.
OWEN SHROYER, INFOWARS HOST: 1776! 1776!
GRIFFIN: At least 20 of those arrested either worked under Alex Jones, appeared on his show or followed his content. The mother of one rioter told a judge her son believes everything Alex Jones has to say. Another rioter, who allegedly tased a police officer, told FBI agents Alex Jones inspired his journey.
UNKNOWN: How did you start going to these rallies?
GRIFFIN: Two men linked to Jones face the most serious charges filed in the January 6th riot, seditious conspiracy. Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes, a frequent InfoWars guest whose phone contained an encrypted chat that included Jones, Rhodes pleaded not guilty. And former InfoWars reporter and Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs, who pushed his way through the police lines into the Capitol, he also pleaded not guilty.
UNKNOWN (voice-over): Bigg, what you got to say?
BIGGS: This is awesome.
GRIFFIN: Jones has not been charged. But CNN has learned that January 6th Select Committee investigators want to know about Jones's involvement in the funding for Trump's rally, the planning for his march to the Capitol, and Jones's ties to extremists now charged with conspiring against the government. JONES: I've said this, my lawyer told me almost 100 times today during the interrogation. On advice of counsel I am asserting my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.
GRIFFIN: Jones says he refused to answer the committee's questions about January 6th but told his InfoWars audience he knew nothing about a plot.
JONES: And they already knew I didn't do anything. I wasn't planning any violence. I was even talking about everybody should be peaceful.
DENVER RIGGLEMAN, FORMER ADVISER, JANUARY 6TH SELECT COMMITTEE: He would say he was talking about a peaceful type of fight but that's not how it's actually translated to the people that follow Alex Jones.
GRIFFIN: His former employees are now convinced, Jones and InfoWars are a sham.
OWENS: I think I was facing a personal reckoning. It took me a lot longer to get the courage to leave.
GRIFFIN (on-camera): Almost sounds like you're breaking away from a cult.
OWENS: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think there are many aspects of being in Jones's world, being a listener, subscribing to those ideas that are cult-like.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): It took Caolan Robertson six months to break away.
(On-camera): What do you say to the people who are wrapped up in this world of InfoWars and believe these conspiracies?
ROBERTSON: I would just tell them directly that Alex doesn't care about them and that they're just being used for money.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): And his business model, making money from supplements, not ads, means Jones's InfoWars empire is virtually untouchable.
BANKSTON: Alex Jones operates a media organization unlike any other. You can't put pressures on him by going after his advertisers. As long as he has that core of people buying those products, he'll do whatever he wants. The only thing that can hold Jones accountable is a lawsuit.
GRIFFIN: Lawsuits filed by the families of Sandy Hook victims are starting to have impact. A Texas jury awarded parents Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis more than $49 million in the first trial. No Texas law may limit the final amount.
In court, Jones admitted children were murdered, but couldn't resist another conspiracy. JONES: I think Sandy Hook happened. I think it's a terrible event. I think we need to protect our children from mentally-ill and psychopaths. I think there was a cover-up because they had warnings. The FBI knew about it. They knew he was planning to attack the school.
GRIFFIN: But it's another dramatic courtroom moment that could have implications beyond the civil lawsuits.
UNKNOWN: Your attorneys messed up. They sent an entire digital copy of your entire cell phone with every text message you sent for the past two years. And that is how I know you lied to me when you said you didn't have text messages about Sandy Hook.
GRIFFIN: Bankston says the January 6 Committee wants to see those texts from Alex Jones. Despite the pressure, the lawsuits, even after losing millions, Jones was on his website, pushing conspiracy and begging for money.
JONES: But if you don't fund us, if you don't buy products at InfoWarsstore.com, we will shut down.
JACOBSON: I want people to know that Alex will not stop. This is what people have to understand about Alex. Will his behavior stay the same? Absolutely.