NEW YORK — Megyn Kelly defended her decision to feature “Infowars” host Alex Jones on her NBC newsmagazine despite taking heat Monday from families of Sandy Hook shooting victims and others, saying it’s her job to “shine a light” on newsmakers.
Critics argue that NBC’s platform legitimizes the views of a man who, among other conspiracy theories, has suggested that the killing of 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 was a hoax. The network released a brief portion of the interview, which is scheduled to air on Sunday.
Kelly, who interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin on the June 4 premiere of “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly,” said on Twitter that President Donald Trump has praised Jones and been on his show. Since many people don’t know Jones and his views, Kelly noted the importance of explaining them. NBC hasn’t immediately commented on the criticism.
Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose 6-year-old daughter Ana Grace was killed at Sandy Hook, said she fears that giving Jones exposure would encourage Jones’ followers who have harassed her and others.
“You can’t just put him in a box and say he’s just a character,” Marquez-Greene said. “He’s really hurting people.”
A year ago, a New York City man who was a follower of Jones was sentenced to probation after approaching a sister of slain Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto during a charity road race and angrily claiming the shootings never took place. On Facebook, Soto’s family said the “incessant need for ratings at the cost of the emotional well-being of our family is disgusting and disappointing.”
Kristin Lemkau, chief marketing officer for JPMorgan Chase, tweeted that “as an advertiser, I’m repulsed that Megyn Kelly would give a second of airtime” to Jones. The company would not comment on later published reports that it had asked for its commercials not to be on the show.
A writer at the conservative website Red State, Andrea Kutz, wondered, “what is Megyn Kelly thinking?”
“I’m a news and politics-engaged individual,” Kutz said, “but I don’t care to watch interviews with liars of either Putin’s or Jones’s ilk. These interviews aren’t interesting even in the abstract.”
In the interview clip released by NBC, Kelly said to Jones, “When you say people faked their children’s deaths, people get very angry.”
When he tried to change the subject, Kelly said, “that’s a dodge.”
After his interview had been taped, Jones denounced it on “Infowars” as “fake news, in my view.”
He said he expected a “rigged” report because a day’s worth of interviews will be boiled down to an 11-minute report. “They’re scared of what we’re covering,” he said. “They’re scared of what we’re doing.”
Jones also described Kelly as not feminine, cold and robotic.
“I felt zero attraction to Megyn Kelly,” he said.
Among Kelly’s social media critics was Shannon Watts, the founder of the anti-gun violence group Moms Demand Action, who suggested that Kelly “turn your light off and let him back under the refrigerator.”
• AP reporter Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford, Conn., contributed to this report.
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