- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 25, 2017

Media personality and noted conspiracy theorist Alex Jones apologized Friday to the owner of Comet Ping Pong, a now-infamous eatery in the nation’s capital, for peddling unfounded claims last year that helped put the restaurant unwillingly at the center of the so-called “Pizzagate” scandal.

Mr. Jones spent several minutes of his Friday radio and internet broadcast extending an olive branch to James Alefantis, a Washington restauranteur who gained national attention last year after leaked emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s former presidential campaign manager made his establishment a lightning rod for bizarre conspiracies given credence by outlets including Mr. Jones’ own Infowars website.

“In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate, I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him,” Mr. Jones said in a prepared statement.

“I want our viewers and listeners to know that we regret any negative impact our commentaries may have had on Mr. Alefantis, Comet Ping Pong, or its employees,” he continued. “We apologize to the extent our commentaries could be considered as negative statements about Mr. Alefantis or Comet Ping Pong, and we hope that anyone else involved in commenting on Pizzagate will do the same thing.”

Comet Ping Pong achieved notoriety last year amid WikiLeaks’ publication of emails stolen from Mrs. Clinton’s former campaign manager, John Podesta. Personal correspondence involving the establishment and its owner appeared in the leak, among other messages, and both soon became the subjects of an unfounded conspiracy theory that attempted to implicate either in an alleged child sex trafficking ring.

Baseless claims concerning the so-called Pizzagate scandal persisted well after Mrs. Clinton lost the election to President Trump in November 2016, but waned the following month after Edgar Maddison Welch of North Carolina allegedly fired a gun inside Comet on Dec. 4 upon driving several hundreds miles to investigate the allegations on his own.

Mr. Jones attempted to publicly distance himself and Infowars from Pizzagate in the aftermath of the incident, and said Friday that his website has purged itself of related content in the months since.

“To my knowledge today, neither Mr. Alefantis, nor his restaurant Comet Ping Pong, were involved in any human trafficking as was part of the theories about Pizzagate that were being written about in many media outlets and which we commented upon,” Mr. Jones said.

While it wasn’t immediately clear what had provoked the apology, Mr. Alefantis wrote a letter seeking an apology last month from Mr. Jones giving him until precisely Friday to either retract or apologize his claims to avoid being sued, Slate reported.

Welch, meanwhile, pleaded guilty in D.C. federal court to firearms charges Friday after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors. He faces the possibility of years in federal prison when sentenced at a later date.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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