Conspiracy theorist and radio talk show host Alex Jones at a rally in support of then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump near the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio in July of 2016.
Jonathan Tilove, Austin American-Statesman
At a recent pretrial hearing, Texas attorney Randall Wilhite told state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo that using his client Alex Jones’ on-air Infowars persona to evaluate Alex Jones as a father would be like judging Jack Nicholson in a custody dispute based on his performance as the Joker in “Batman.”
“He’s playing a character,” Wilhite said of Jones. “He is a performance artist.”
But in emotional testimony at the hearing, Kelly Jones, who is seeking to gain sole or joint custody of her three children with Alex Jones, portrayed the volcanic public figure as the real Alex Jones.
“He’s not a stable person,” she said of the man with whom her 14-year-old son and 9- and 12-year-old daughters have lived since her 2015 divorce. “He says he wants to break Alec Baldwin’s neck. He wants J-Lo to get raped.
“I’m concerned that he is engaged in felonious behavior, threatening a member of Congress,” she said, referring to his recent comments about California Democrat Adam Schiff. “He broadcasts from home. The children are there, watching him broadcast.”
Beginning Monday, jury selection gets underway at the courthouse in Travis County, Texas that in the next two weeks will be asked to sort out whether there is a difference between the public and private Alex Jones, and whether, when it comes to his fitness as a parent, it matters.
For Naranjo, who has been the presiding judge of the 419th District Court since January 2006, it is about keeping her eyes, and the jury’s eyes, on the children.
“This case is not about Infowars, and I don’t want it to be about Infowars,” Naranjo told the top-shelf legal talent enlisted in Jones v. Jones at the last pretrial hearing Wednesday. “I am in control of this court, not your clients.”
But for Alex Jones, at the peak of his power and influence, what emerges from the art deco courthouse on Guadalupe Street might shape whether he comes to be seen by his faithful as more prophet or showman.
Alex Jones is an Austin original who, 21 years after he got his own show on Austin public access television, has become an unlikely popular and political force in the Donald Trump era, an ingenious and indefatigable conjurer of conspiracy theories about sinister global elites seeking to enslave the masses, who found, in Trump, a hero open to his shadowy narratives.
“Alex Jones and his Infowars’ umbrella of radio shows, YouTube and Facebook broadcasts, Internet website and tweets turned out to be Trump’s secret weapon,” Roger Stone, probably Trump’s oldest and closest political confidant, wrote in his book “The Making of the President 2016.” “His fiery words have struck a chord in the nation and he speaks for millions. In fact, more people follow Alex than watch Fox News or CNN.”
In addition to broadcasting his radio show on some 150 stations, Infowars.com had 7.6 million global unique visitors between March 16 and April 14 according to Quantcast, which measures web audiences and ranked Infowars.com 387th among all U.S. websites, not far behind Texas.gov, MLB.com and PBS.org.