Not many could have kept a calm demeanor when confronting a conspiracy theorist – especially one as outrageous as broadcaster Alex Jones, who has claimed the Sandy Hook massacre is a government hoax and that the families are actors.
But Scarlett Lewis, whose 6-year-old son Jesse was killed in the 2012 shooting, steadily and effectively confronted Jones from the witness stand of a Texas court on Tuesday, at times even calling him by his first name. “Alex, I want you to hear this,” she said, according to news reports, as he appeared to nervously shake his head. “Jesse was real. I’m a real mom.”
The trial is one of several defamation cases against Jones. At stake is how much in damages he will pay. The InfoWars host has already lost deveral defamation cases brought by Sandy Hook families.
Jones has falsely claimed that the shooting was a hoax designed to take away America’s guns.
Over the course of 90 minutes, Lewis addressed Jones directly as he fidgeted. “I wanted to tell you to your face… that I am a mother first and foremost, and I know that you’re a father, and my son existed.” At one point she asked: “Do you think I’m an actor?”
“No, I don’t think you’re an actor,” Jones responded, according to news reports, before the judge told him to keep quiet until it was his turn to testify.
In keeping her composure, Lewis may have drawn on some emotional skills she has learned as the founder of the Choose Love Movement, which helps bring social and emotional learning programs into schools. She started the nonprofit after Jesse’s death in an effort to prevent more school shootings. (See our 2018 profile on Lewis.)
During her testimony, Lewis quietly admonished Jones while keeping her emotions in check, telling him that his lies are dangerous. “Truth, truth is so vital to our world. Truth is what we base our reality on, and we have to agree on that to have a civil society,” she said. Fostering doubt that Sandy Hook happened “is not conducive to keeping our kids safe.”
There have been over 350 school shootings in the 10 years since Sandy Hook, she added.
Lewis’s testimony followed that of Jesse’s father, Neil Heslin, who often paused to weep Tuesday when recalling memories of his son. Both Lewis and Heslin testified that they have been harassed and threatened by conspiracy theorists.
Lewis’ ability to stay calm seemed particularly remarkable as, according to the New York Times, she had spent a courtroom break watching Jones, who skipped part of the proceedings, broadcast on his show that Heslin’s father was “slow,” and “manipulated by some very bad people.”
On the witness stand, she repeated that she is not an actor – and that Jones knows that. “I know you believe me,” she said. And yet “you’re going to leave this courthouse, and you’re going to say it again on your show.”
An attorney for Heslin and Lewis asked the jury last week to award them $150 million in damages, according to CNN. Lewis said in court that she believes that monetary damages are appropriate because she doesn’t believe Jones will ever stop.