United States of Conspiracy
How trafficking in conspiracy theories went from the fringes of U.S. politics into the White House. FRONTLINE examines the alliance of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Trump advisor Roger Stone, and the president, and their role in the battle over truth and lies.
>> We're gathered together in the heart
of our nation's capital...
>> NARRATOR: The siege on the Capitol...
fueled by conspiracy theories...
>> Our election victory stolen
by radical left Democrats...
...They rigged an election, they rigged it like they've
never rigged an election before.
>> NARRATOR: ...that have defined Trump's presidency.
>> Now those ideas, which used to be on the fringe,
are in the mainstream.
>> Conspiratorial thinking is a feature of this president.
>> NARRATOR: Now on "Frontline,"
"United States of Conspiracy."
>> Ladies and gentlemen, it is 10:39 Central Standard time,
Roger Stone, who worked in four administrations,
been involved in nine campaigns, he's here tonight.
>> It's a moment of enormous tension.
I'm working the phones very aggressively.
Working my contacts.
>> But I've gotta shake your hand.
What a strong showing regardless.
>> I was in the studio with Alex Jones and Roger on Election Day.
And the metrics were off the charts about how many people
were tuning into Infowars, numbers that were comparable
to the networks.
>> NARRATOR: Alex Jones-- extremist conspiracy theorist--
had rallied his audience behind Donald Trump.
>> ...is saying Trump is projected to win.
>> As the night drew on, it became clearer and clearer
that Trump was likely to win.
>> It is officially over, Pennsylvania has been called.
>> They had no idea whatsoever that Trump was going to win.
>> You've talked to the Trump campaign...
>> All of a sudden everybody was super elated.
We had some staff members that was just running around
the office in a big circle.
I mean, people were like, "Ahh!"
I mean, going crazy that night.
>> Thank you.
>> He's going to be speaking momentarily.
>> Cheers. Love you.
Love you guys. Love all of you.
>> There was a combination of elation and confusion.
And they realized that, "Oh my God, we just played a role
in making the President of the United States."
>> Here goes Trump.
Turn it up.
Donald J. Trump.
>> He's going up to the microphones.
He's going to be...
>> The Golden Toad!
>> I assume he'll mention the phone call he received...
>> Get ready, I tell you, he charges into a goblin's nest.
>> This is amazing.
>> As long as he doesn't... as long as he doesn't kiss
a goblin, goblin's vomit, catch him in bed with a goblin.
>> I don't think there's any danger of that.
>> No. He defeated the goblins. He did it.
>> Stone and Jones believed that they had been instrumental
in getting Donald Trump elected.
Or that certainly they had driven successful narratives
that helped to... that helped to get him elected.
>> I was exhausted, but euphoric.
Jones was exhausted, but he was downcast.
>> It's almost 3:00 in the morning Central Time.
And we now have President-elect Donald Trump.
>> And I asked him why.
And he said, "You don't understand.
This is just the beginning."
>> Now we are bound forever.
And if we don't deliver this plan, and free humanity,
we will be bound to the ninth circle of hell.
I'm bound to this truth and I will never stop delivering.
>> And in that moment it was visible that there was
a reaction, because he started crying.
I mean his emotions were evident.
They were streaming down his face.
>> I've said it.
I've already run my course.
I already know my entire life purpose has been completed.
I will continue on, but now I realized, I've won.
>> Alex Jones is part of a bigger phenomenon.
What people like Alex Jones, and others showed us,
is that conspiracy theories are an effective political tool.
They help shape elections.
They help shape public discussion.
They help people decide what to believe.
Conspiracy theories work.
>> All across the country,
you will see a lot of conspiracy theories out there.
>> NARRATOR: Alex Jones helped usher in a new and dangerous era
in American politics.
>> American conspiracy theories are entering
a dangerous new phase.
>> NARRATOR: One where the truth doesn't matter.
>> COVID-19 is a Chi-Comm globalist bio-weapon.
>> NARRATOR: Where political opponents treat each other
as mortal enemies.
>> Hillary Clinton is a (bleep) damn demon!
>> NARRATOR: Where lies and conspiracies flourish.
>> Pizzagate is real.
Sandy Hook, it's got inside job written all over it.
>> NARRATOR: "The United States Of Conspiracy."
>> ...slew of deliberate disinformation...
>> Disinformation is having a devastating effect.
>> ...the same conspiracy theories...
>> NARRATOR: The story of how Alex Jones helped bring
conspiracies into the mainstream began on the fringes
of America in the 1990s.
>> All right, Austin, I...
>> NARRATOR: He was a late-night access TV personality
in Austin, Texas, an obscure voice pedaling outrage.
>> They are trying to make you dysfunctional,
they are teaching you false thought systems...
>> He began...
>> ...as sort of an underground phenomenon.
>> Society is insane to me,
so I'm insane to your average dumbbell.
>> You know, people in Austin would sit home and get high
in the middle of the night and watch this crazy guy vent
about... crazy stuff.
>> Hillary Clinton is a fascist worker...
>> NARRATOR: Unhinged conspiracy theory rants...
>> Biological attack is imminent.
>> NARRATOR: ...political stunts...
>> They took me into custody and were going to arrest me
for disturbing a public meeting.
>> He was on the fringe.
It used to be you have to be somebody who was deep, deep
into conspiracy culture to know who Alex Jones was.
You'd have to know things about lizard people,
or teleportation pads,
these crazy, crazy conspiracy theories.
>> NARRATOR: British filmmaker Jon Ronson
is a renowned expert on extremism.
He has been following Jones for more than 20 years.
>> He was diagnosed as having
narcissistic personality disorder.
And I think that's a factor
because I think that people with NPD don't need to care as much
about the truth and about society as, as other people do.
I think they consider themselves more important than the truth.
("Carmina Burana: O Fortuna" by Carl Orff playing)
>> NARRATOR: Jones promoted anti-government
conspiracy theories in a series of homemade films.
He'd also use a growing radio show to allege--
without evidence-- secret plots in crisis after crisis.
>> The federal government financed and controlled
this attack on the World Trade Center.
>> NARRATOR: The 1993 World Trade Center bombing...
>> Multiple bombs ripped through
the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
>> NARRATOR: The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing...
>> ...and, as usual, federal fingerprints were all over
this tragic event.
>> NARRATOR: He called them "false flags."
>> A big element of Alex Jones' show,
and his theorizing generally,
is that things are false flag attacks.
That is, attacks perpetrated by the government
or elements within the government to create fear,
suspicion, division, or to bring us all under
the sinister control of the New World Order
or the One World Government.
>> ...to create yet another crisis,
this time to usher in a police state...
>> NARRATOR: Jones' rhetoric resonated with people
around the country who were looking for answers.
>> Conspiracy theory is a theory.
It's an attempt to explain an event.
And it says that things are not as they seem.
And you explain it by picking up the dots, forming a pattern,
and showing that that pattern indicates malignant intent
by powerful people acting covertly.
>> NARRATOR: Then a moment of trauma on live television.
>> On this Tuesday morning, it's the 11th day of September, 2001.
>> NARRATOR: As a confused country watched.
>> We want to go live right now and show you a picture
of the World Trade Center, where I understand-- do we have it?
No, we do not.
We have a breaking story though.
We're going to come back with that in just a moment.
First this is "Today" on NBC.
>> NARRATOR: That day, broadcasting from Texas,
Jones would seize on the tragedy.
("The Imperial March" playing) >> You want answers?
Well, so does he.
He's Alex Jones on the GCN Radio Network.
And now, live from Austin, Texas...
>> Alex was immediately on the radio
on all of his syndicated shows.
>> To bring you up to speed on what's happened.
At 8:50 a.m. E.D.T. a plane hits the World Trade Center.
9:30 Eastern, second jet crashes into the World Trade Center.
>> ...saying that, "This attack is an inside job.
Yes, the towers fell.
But they were not felled by terrorists.
They were destroyed by the United States government
as a pretext to impose martial law."
>> NARRATOR: Jones and other believers became known
as the "9/11 Truther Movement."
>> Alex became the world's leading 9/11 Truther.
And actually, everything just got worse and darker.
9/11 conspiracy theorists were vicious and brutal.
>> They're either using provocateur Arabs
and allowing them to do it or this is full complicity
with the federal government,
the evidence is overwhelming to bring you up to speed
on what's happened.
>> NARRATOR: Even for the radio stations that had hosted Jones
over the years, he'd gone too far this time.
>> What you see after 9/11 is a country
that is really, really hurting.
People were grieving.
Where it was a moment where people wouldn't have imagined
that you were going to take that moment,
this national moment of mourning, and turn it into
a conspiracy theory.
>> I'll tell you the bottom line.
98% chance this was a government orchestrated controlled bombing.
I've been telling you this was going to happen.
Just two weeks ago I...
>> Overnight, something like two-thirds of
all the Genesis stations dumped him.
And it seemed like it was going to be a disaster for his career,
and at first it was.
>> NARRATOR: But it was 2001 and Alex Jones quickly found
a new outlet, a new way to reach a like-minded audience--
the anarchy of the web.
>> More terrorism is on the way.
September 11 was only the latest in a long line...
>> NARRATOR: Where the 9/11 Truther movement
was alive and well.
>> It was the manipulation of that national tragedy
that really, really opened an eye for Jones
about how he could get a hook into his audience.
(keyboard keys clacking)
>> NARRATOR: His website-- Infowars.com--
became a hub for conspiracy theories.
>> We all know a conspiracy theorist
from the days before Twitter or Facebook.
And those people were sort of isolated and shunned.
And everybody felt like they had their number.
But with social media and the internet, they find each other.
>> You know why the Bush crime family and the C.I.A...
>> And they can push that message to millions of people.
>> You know why the big CFR takeover isn't going to work?
>> The interesting thing about the internet
is that it builds community.
You can find people who feed in to your negativity,
or your fears, or your bigotry.
And so that's what Alex Jones has been able to do.
I mean, he's been able to mobilize people
based on their fears.
For many, their ignorance.
>> NARRATOR: As the tech giants grew-- Facebook, Twitter,
Spotify, Instagram, Google's YouTube-- so did Alex Jones.
>> Information that you would have been very hard
to get before and suddenly became easy.
>> We're on the right side of history.
>> He wasn't really my cup of tea;
it was young men who liked him
because he was wild and he was funny.
>> Nellies going, "Ah, kill everybody."
>> NARRATOR: His audience was mostly white men--
it became known as "dude radio."
Every week millions watched his programs...
>> I mean, it's just like scum, Nazi filth...
>> NARRATOR: ...and his conspiracy movies.
("Carmina Burana: O Fortuna" by Carl Orff playing)
It was the type of controversial content that generated clicks.
The more outrageous the better; the bigger the lie,
the more clicks he got.
And YouTube's algorithms recommended his videos
billions of times.
>> In the near future, Earth is dominated
by a powerful world government.
>> His films got out to millions and millions
and millions of people.
>> The dawn of a new dark age is upon mankind.
>> When we put out a film, I remember "Endgame,"
within like something like six or seven days
receiving like 30 million views.
It was ridiculous.
I just remember constantly refreshing
and it going up by thousands every time I'd refresh.
>> But Charlie's tired of being held up like the devil.
We've got TSA putting their hands down people's pants,
Infowars.com covers it all.
We've got the banks bankrupting the U.S.
>> NARRATOR: Spreading wild conspiracy theories
had made Jones a celebrity,
but one question would not go away.
>> How much of what Alex says on the radio
does he really believe?
And is Alex really crazy?
If he's not crazy, and he says crazy things on the radio,
and on TV and on YouTube every day
in order to exploit other people who are crazy,
to make money for himself, then that doesn't look good at all.
>> To announce DNA Force, ladies and gentlemen...
>> NARRATOR: But it didn't matter to Jones or his audience.
He had found a winning formula.
>> He is the exemplar of a conspiracy entrepreneur.
There's a whole new industry that's grown up.
>> That's my second dose of that.
I need to take it easy.
>> He sells, you know, potency pills.
He's into virility.
And he sells body armor, and gold, and other things.
>> NARRATOR: At Infowars.com, they sold gold, pills, and fear.
>> Radioactive contamination...
>> He was smart, because he correctly realized
that he had to sell a product.
>> Wars are not cheap...
Go check out the amazing specials...
>> Especially a survivalist product that people thought
they would need under the coming, you know,
nightmarish new world government, was very prescient.
>> Alex, overnight, made a huge amount of money.
I mean somebody told me that he was bringing in
like $100,000 a day.
>> I will only give you the maximum...
>> NARRATOR: It was rock star money.
>> The maximum truth.
>> NARRATOR: He decided to live like one.
>> We went from the little house,
to the slightly bigger house,
to a really nice house to multiple houses.
And you get all this money, and Alex always wanted more
and more and more.
And I was like, "Alex, what are you doing,
we don't even do these things?"
>> Somewhere along the line he started making
an awful lot of money.
And so once that started happening,
even if he had stopped becoming a believer,
there was a very powerful incentive
to continue doing what he was doing.
>> I will go to...
I will go to hell before I sit here
and I watch this country and the world
turned over to these savages.
>> NARRATOR: Jones' audience was insatiable and he delivered.
>> Let me tell me something, you filthy traitors
of the government, you pieces of crap.
>> NARRATOR: More conspiracy, more controversy, more crisis.
>> I've had enough of these people.
Okay, so I've been containing this since last week,
that's why I'm in here sweating.
>> If you are always on the radio,
if you are always on television, you always have to top yourself.
You have to create a more wild, more extreme conspiracy theory,
to keep your audience engaged.
You can't just keep coming out with the same line
every single day.
And so you force-- you are compelled to push yourself
to ever greater extremes.
(phone dialing out, heavy breathing)
>> 9-1-1. State your emergency.
>> Sandy Hook School, I think there's somebody shooting
>> NARRATOR: For Alex Jones, there seemed to be no boundary
to his increasingly extreme theories.
>> They're still shooting.
>> NARRATOR: No tragedy too awful to exploit.
>> Sandy Hook Elementary School.
I believe there's shooting at the front.
>> Ladies and gentlemen, it is Friday.
Thank you so much for joining us.
The 14th day of December 2012.
And there is a reported school shooting in Connecticut.
>> I need assistance here immediately!
>> This is going to be a lot bigger than Columbine.
And this is already 18 dead children.
>> NARRATOR: In the end, 27 killed,
20 of them elementary school children.
Jones seized on the deaths.
>> Boy, wouldn't you know, I mean, it's sick.
You can go back in the last month,
and I've said over and over again, and you watch,
there's going to be giant school shootings.
>> The moment you see a mass shooting event,
the mindset inside is, it's probably a false flag operation.
It might not be, but it probably is.
>> If we start seeing tell-tale signs of it being staged,
we'll let you know.
You know, it has now come out that... um...
it was a government program
and that person was in a mind control program.
>> And this is conspiracy without the theory
that dispenses with...
blatantly dispenses with any evidence or argument.
It lives by sheer assertion.
>> ...and the doctor he was under was a head Air Force
mind control doctor, and he was involved
in DARPA brain interface programs,
and told people he was under mind control in the jail.
>> He just kept adding more and more and more outrageous lies
to the story.
All the pictures of the children inside of it were fake.
It was all a CGI construction.
For Jones, it didn't matter how absurd each new layer got.
He would put anything on the air,
as long as it kept driving the Sandy Hook story.
>> Newtown destroys suspected Sandy Hook shooter's home...
>> NARRATOR: Even inside Infowars,
some of Jones' own staff worried about what he was saying.
>> But the media still lies and says he did.
>> Jones had no evidence whatsoever to prove that
that didn't happen.
And he said it many times
because that's just what fit into his worldview.
That's what, I mean, on some level it felt like
that's what he wanted it to be.
>> NARRATOR: One of Jones' employees,
longtime editor Rob Jacobson, brought his concerns
directly to Jones.
>> I stopped him.
I was like, "Alex, man, they're going to come after you
for Sandy Hook," you know?
I was like, "Look, man, you... this is crazy."
And he just stopped and looked at me with no reaction.
He had nothing to say to me.
Like he just stopped like a deer in headlights.
>> NARRATOR: And he wasn't alone.
>> I think it's important to note the top editorial person
inside of InfoWars desperately warned him,
and tried to get employees to help warn Alex Jones
that what he was doing was very, very bad.
He didn't listen.
>> I've looked at it and undoubtedly there's a cover up,
there's actors, they're manipulating,
they've been caught lying, and they were pre-planning before it
>> NARRATOR: Jones spared no one.
He even went after the families.
>> And Alex Jones looks at those tiny caskets...
...and these grieving parents...
...and decides that he's going to make their lives
a living hell by selling this conspiracy theory
that Newtown is all a fraud, and that these...
all of these people are actors.
>> NARRATOR: Six-year-old Noah Pozner was killed
by the Sandy Hook shooter, but his family became a victim
of Alex Jones.
>> My wife at the time, Noah's mother, did a few interviews.
And she became a... a target.
He accused her of being an actor.
>> I'm grieving, that's all.
>> That became one of the cornerstone conspiracy points
for Sandy Hook.
>> Thank you, I'm going to need it.
>> The whole thing was fake.
I mean, even I couldn't believe it.
I knew they jumped on it.
Used the crisis.
Hyped it up.
But then I did deep research, and my gosh,
it just pretty much didn't happen.
>> NARRATOR: As Jones added fuel to the fire...
>> We've sent reporters up there, man,
and that place is like "Children of the Corn" or something.
>> NARRATOR: Online conspiracy theorists were attacking
>> From then on it was an absolute quest
to destroy these parents.
>> "What a loser!"
"Crisis actor trash."
"Oh Lenny... you poseur."
"Take your life!"
>> NARRATOR: It spread on the web-- YouTube, Reddit and 4chan.
>> "What kind of (bleep) name is Noah Pozner?"
>> "Probably to a (bleep) kibbutz just outside of..."
>> They're haters. They're fools.
Anything they can do to trigger trouble in my life
they have done.
>> NARRATOR: Pozner changed addresses many times,
tried to hide his identity, still they found him.
>> I got a call from someone and I had just moved into new...
a new apartment.
He read me the address that I had just moved into
and he read me my social security number.
>> A woman began stalking Mr. Pozner and his family
in South Central Florida, started threatening their lives.
>> NARRATOR: She was an avid follower of Jones and Infowars.
>> And she was soon sent to federal prison
for what she was doing.
Mr. Jones knew this, he understood this,
he absolutely knew what was happening.
He wanted Lenny Pozner to suffer harm.
>> NARRATOR: Pozner now lives in hiding.
>> Whatever is happening to these families,
clearly it didn't mean anything to him.
It's obvious that, that Jones isn't remorseful or apologetic
for any of the things that those families had to endure
from the words that he dispelled or the ideas that he spread.
I genuinely don't think he cares.
>> NARRATOR: People close to Jones were appalled
about what he had done.
It was the last straw for his wife Kelly.
>> I was very disgusted by what he said.
I definitely told him, like, "What are you doing?
Why are you doing this?"
And they were just so excited
that they were getting so many views or whatever
that they continued to do this.
>> NARRATOR: They filed for divorce in 2013
and have been in a bitter sometimes public feud
>> Isn't it fortuitous...
>> The king of conspiracy radio show host Alex Jones...
>> Alex Jones the king of all internet conspiracies...
>> NARRATOR: The controversy over Sandy Hook had made Jones
bigger than ever.
>> Alex Jones is pushing a lot of buttons...
>> NARRATOR: He was now tapping into not just
the conspiracy world, but the country's culture wars
and growing populist anger.
>> And the answer to their 1984 slavery!
>> NARRATOR: In hard-right politics,
he was becoming a player.
>> ...total fraud, and the minute people are aware of it,
it's over for you.
>> I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...
>> NARRATOR: And in the country's first black president,
Jones had another target.
>> And, you know, the first black president from Kenya,
born in Kenya. Boom.
>> NARRATOR: Jones pushed the discredited birther theory,
questioning President Obama's citizenship.
>> In birtherism what you see is a group of Americans who resent
the fact that there is an African American president
in the White House.
>> Boom. We're told there is no long-form, it doesn't exist.
Oh yeah, here it is-- it's fake.
>> And Alex Jones, and all sorts of other people,
they hand them this excuse that it's, "Well, he wasn't born
in this country, and this is really all a lie,
and that he is actually not who he says he is."
>> This is how they try to start the revolution.
>> Alex Jones appeals to the worst parts of society--
and he looks for all the terrible things
in society-- racism, sexism, misogyny--
and he exploits them for his own benefit.
>> This is what they're trying to get going,
this is a race war.
This is exactly what we predicted...
>> NARRATOR: Jones unabashedly exploited race, stoking fear...
>> Of nothing but white peoples' cars being stopped
by mobs of black people.
>> NARRATOR: Sounding alarms...
>> Record numbers of Muslims are being brought in
from countries known to be radicalized
and who want to attack...
>> Alex Jones is able to tap into some real deep, dark fears
that White Americans explicitly have about the future
of their country,
who's in it, who's controlling it, and their placement in it.
>> NARRATOR: He was promoting a politics of conspiracy and lies
that would find its moment in 2015...
>> Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.
It's Alex Jones.
>> NARRATOR: ...when he invited a special guest on his program.
>> He's written the "New York Times" bestselling book,
"The Men Who Killed Kennedy," you've probably heard of,
RogerStone.com, good to see you again, buddy.
>> Alex, great to see you, thanks for having me.
>> Nobody had any idea at that point that this is somebody
that would be coming back again and again and again...
>> Well, Alex, first of all, I want to thank you
because nobody has been more effective in terms of revealing
the secret game plan of the party kingmakers.
>> NARRATOR: Roger Stone was a notorious political operator.
>> Roger Stone is a self-described dirty trickster.
>> NARRATOR: A career dating back to Richard Nixon.
>> He has a tattoo of Nixon on his back...
>> That's the purpose of my tattoo...
>> Roger is singular in the political landscape.
He is a body-building, pot-spoking dandy swinger,
who has had a profound impact upon shaping
all of our lives through his savvy and cunning
as a political consultant.
>> He was the chairman of Donald Trump's exploratory campaign.
He talked to Trump this morning,
you were telling me off air, Trump's for real.
>> NARRATOR: In 2015, Stone had an insight--
that Alex Jones' audience could help Donald Trump.
>> You can't buy Trump, you can't bully Trump...
>> Alex Jones, um, is a character.
And he has a very, very, large, very, very loyal following out
there in the blogosphere.
>> And speak of the Devil-- "Hillary Clinton for Prison"
shirts, we're only selling it, limited edition.
>> His people are very dedicated, they're very loyal.
>> It just looks like a campaign shirt,
"Hillary for Prison 2016 ."
>> Stone was getting a big platform out of Jones.
>> Where do you want to start, Mr. Stone?
>> Stone could come on Jones' show and talk to what ultimately
be millions of people.
I think that Jones was getting some type validation from Stone.
>> They can call us conspiracy theorists,
as you know that's a way to try to discredit us.
All we are is truth-tellers.
We speak from the heart like Donald Trump,
we speak from the heart and let the chips fall where they may.
>> NARRATOR: As the first Republican primaries approached,
Donald Trump was a longshot.
Stone wanted him to make an important connection.
>> Well, I don't usually get butterflies
about a guest on the show.
Donald Trump is our guest, ladies and gentlemen,
for the next 30 minutes or so.
He is the leading 2016 Republican presidential
contender, Donald Trump.
>> It was a signal to Jones' literally millions of followers
that Trump was the man to support
in the Republican primary.
>> And I've got so many questions but, but first off,
Donald, thank you for joining us.
>> Thank you, Alex, great. Great to be with you.
>> Trump recognized the power of Alex Jones' audience
and Alex Jones' base and had mirrored a lot
of Alex Jones' policies and rhetoric in achieving...
in getting to that frontrunner status in the first place.
>> I know now from top people that you actually are for real.
>> Alex was only too happy to play sycophant.
>> ...is epic, it's George Washington level,
and you understand that office.
>> And Trump basked in the glow of his adulation.
And so I think it was purely transactional,
and it worked out great for both of them.
>> I just want to finish by saying
your reputation's amazing, I will not let you down,
you will be very, very impressed, I hope.
>> He said, "I have so much admiration for you,
you have such an audience."
I mean, this is what Trump cared about, you have such--
you have such influence.
We're going to be talking a lot.
I'm going to be relying on you.
>> I hope you can help uncripple America, thank you so much, sir.
That you will be attacked for coming on,
we know you know that, thank you.
>> Thank you very much.
>> Alex Jones, like President Trump, they come from
this fringe, they come from a place that people maybe
poked fun of them, they come from this place
where people maybe didn't take them seriously.
But they've, they claw their way to the center
of American politics.
>> They've destroyed our economy...
>> Roger delivers legitimacy to Alex Jones,
and Alex Jones delivers to Trump a disaffected voter
that Trump desperately needed to bring to the polls
in order to win.
And that was, I think, in a lot of ways, the difference maker.
>> NARRATOR: Jones boasted about his impact on the candidate.
>> And I'll tell you, it is surreal to talk about issues
here on air and then, word for word,
hear Trump say it two days later.
>> I mean, sometimes it was like verbatim, like, really Trump,
You're taking his word for it?
You don't have anybody else around you?
>> As we've been saying for three years,
Hillary is the founder of ISIS along with Obama.
>> He founded ISIS and I would say the co-founder
would be crooked Hillary Clinton.
>> "Was Cruz's Father Linked to JFK Assassination?
Cuban hired by Lee Harvey Oswald bears striking resemblance
>> You know, his father was with Lee Harvey Oswald
prior to Oswald being, uh, you know, shot,
I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous.
>> I think it was a super power trip for Alex
that was irresistible.
>> So he's going to use executive orders
to go after our guns.
>> The president's thinking about signing
an executive order where he wants take your guns away,
you hear this one?
>> Uh, someone in the mainstream, Trump,
using the words that Jones had been using for decades, um...
I think that emboldened Jones
and it changed him as a personality.
>> These people are not frickin' humans, okay?
Hillary Clinton is a demon damned to hell!
>> He made a deal with the devil, she's the devil.
He made a deal with the devil. It's true.
>> The big shock was Alex having the ear of a president-to-be.
That was the biggest shock.
Of all the people I've interviewed over 35 years,
I can think of a, a lot of people I would rather have
the presidency than Alex Jones.
It's a bit of a shame that one of the most, um...
spiraling people I've ever met is the one
who's influencing Trump.
>> National convention kicks off in Cleveland, Ohio, tomorrow...
>> Eyes on Cleveland, the 2016 Republican National Convention.
>> NARRATOR: Almost two decades after pedaling
conspiracy theories on late night cable TV...
>> All right, let's just cover this thing.
>> NARRATOR: Alex Jones arrived
at the Republican National Convention.
>> That summer was particularly important for Jones
because he was on the rise at the time.
>> I've come to see Alex Jones, put that on CNN.
>> God bless you, brother.
>> God bless you, Alex, thank you.
>> Normally you would expect Alex Jones to be outside
the barricades with a bullhorn.
But all of a sudden, there he was, making his way through,
he was a part of things.
Because this was an administration
that not only embraces people like him and like Roger Stone,
and people who were kind of, you know,
practicing the sort of conspiratorial dark arts...
conspiratorial thinking is a feature of this president.
>> NARRATOR: Inside the convention,
Jones immediately sought out controversy.
He crashed the set of a live left-wing television show.
>> It's that it overcomes every other demographic advantage...
>> Good to see you man...
>> Jones had a contentious relationship
with The Young Turks.
They both decided to interrupt their live show.
There were people everywhere and I remember trying
to hold my camera up to film what was going on.
There were people scrambling everywhere,
people screaming at each other.
>> I mean, it was spectacle. It was, it was ridiculous.
But I mean, honestly, that was par for the course.
That was daily life with Jones.
>> For him, it was always like, "Let's create chaos."
>> Because chaos is entertaining,
people are going to tune into that.
>> And they just decided to go for it.
They had a preternatural sense that that would be a big to-do.
The objective is always to get clicks,
to get eyeballs, and to convert that into financial gain.
>> NARRATOR: Chaos, conflict, conspiracy.
In 2016, Jones and Stone were rewriting the playbook
of American politics.
>> And that was another moment where you realize,
this whole landscape has changed.
And these individuals that could so easily be dismissed
have become a force to be reckoned with.
>> I'm never a lesser of two evils person,
but with Hillary there's not even the same universe,
I mean, she is an abject, psychopathic demon from hell...
>> NARRATOR: With Election Day looming, on InfoWars,
Jones went all in attacking Hillary Clinton.
>> People loved this conspiracist claim.
If you needed more to lock her up, here was the more,
but it was really a, a portrait of her
as a woman who would do anything.
>> I will warn you, uh, this story
that's been the biggest thing on the internet
is a rabbit hole that is horrifying to go down.
Now, this is tied into Podesta with thousands of emails with,
"We're gonna have the six-year-old,
>> NARRATOR: It was an internet conspiracy theory
sparked by stolen emails from Clinton's campaign chairman
John Podesta, claiming that references to "cheese pizza"
were code for "child pornography."
>> Why did the Podesta emails mention the code word pasta
for either "little boy" or "sex" 78 times?
Code word "cheese" for "little girl" 85 times?
>> They were ready to believe just about anything
about Hillary Clinton.
>> Do you think I'll do better playing dominos
on cheese than on pasta?
>> The belief that evildoers are meeting in secret
to abuse children is really old.
It's the blood libel.
The best known example of that is from the Middle Ages.
It's the idea that Jews were meeting in secret
to murder Christian children and use their blood in rituals.
And we can see elements of the blood libel
in a lot of conspiracy theories, even through the present day.
>> NARRATOR: On Twitter, they called the blood libel
>> Pizzagate has elements of blood libel within it.
>> NARRATOR: The allegation:
a child sex ring run out of the basement
of a D.C. pizza parlor...
>> So Comet Ping Pong...
>> NARRATOR: ...Comet Ping Pong.
>> Wikileaks have come out with Podesta going to rituals
where they drink blood and urine and semen.
>> Oh my gosh, Jones is having the time of his life.
>> Yes, I have a responsibility to cover it
and, yes, it's important...
>> I mean, he was in high dudgeon.
>> They hurt children, folks.
>> He's crying.
He's weeping, we're, like, this is pure evil.
>> Cover Pizzagate, we have covered it, we are covering it,
and all I know is, God help us, we're in the hands of pure evil.
>> And it ran constantly, because it was a ratings-getter.
>> When I think about all the children Hillary Clinton
has personally murdered and, and chopped up and, and raped...
>> NARRATOR: His profile raised by Trump and Stone,
Jones was known as a "super spreader,"
a megaphone for internet lies and misinformation.
>> I just can't hold back the truth anymore.
Hillary Clinton is one of the most vicious serial killers
the planet's ever seen...
>> A match was struck on Alex Jones' show.
And it goes from zero to 100 on Google Trends.
>> Thousands of emails, I'm not ready to accuse these people
of this, it's up to you to research it for yourself,
but you gotta...
>> Yeah, I mean, Alex would always encourage people, like,
"I can't do this alone."
You know, he'd always encourage people to go out
and do those things by themselves.
>> NARRATOR: Some of them took matters into their own hands.
>> A volunteer firefighter in North Carolina,
Edgar Madison Welch, hears the stories about Pizzagate
being promoted by Alex Jones and others and, uh,
decides somebody has to do something about it.
Somebody has to save these kids.
>> He's basically making a goodbye video...
his two daughters, like, in the car, on the way,
driving north on 95.
>> I mean, he believed it.
>> So this guy, Welch...
>> You know, armed with an assault rifle,
barges into the restaurant on a Sunday afternoon,
um... fires two shots as he goes looking
for the mythical basement
where the kids are supposedly being trafficked,
um, and, of course, uh, never finds it.
>> NARRATOR: Welch discovered there was no basement.
No pedophile ring.
>> Get on the ground, lay prone one the ground!
>> NARRATOR: Welch would later tell a "New York Times" reporter
"The intel on this wasn't 100 percent."
>> These conspiracies, some may think, "Well, they're harmless."
But then we have somebody who shows up
at a pizza establishment with a weapon.
I mean, there... people will act on these things,
we will see violence from this sort of stirring up
of hatred and division.
And the Pizzagate conspiracy theory is exhibit A.
>> I'm going to read to you from a statement
that's also posted to Infowars.com,
that I wrote yesterday...
>> NARRATOR: Under legal threat from the owner
of Comet Ping Pong, Alex Jones would eventually retract
his Pizzagate claims.
>> In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate,
I made comments that, in hindsight, I regret
and for which I apologize to him.
>> NARRATOR: Alex Jones had become a powerful
and dangerous voice, his influence confirmed
with the inauguration in 2017.
>> Final preparations are underway for the inauguration...
>> Set to become America's 45th president today...
>> Beginning a new era, a new...
>> NARRATOR: He'd reached the center of American politics
>> Live in Washington D.C., here is Alex Jones.
>> You make America great again
and the whole rest of the planet,
and have a new age of trade, low taxes
and, and, and, and peace.
>> Economic growth and peace.
Today is a victory for the revolution.
Let's get in there.
>> This is a giant playground for fans of conspiracy theories.
>> NARRATOR: Conspiracy theories were now emanating directly
from the White House.
>> He had a larger inaugural crowd than Barack Obama.
>> If they spied on my campaign, it will be one of the great...
>> NARRATOR: As president, Trump veered from one
unsupported claim to the next.
>> Claimed up to 5 million illegal votes cost him
the popular vote...
>> Facing the backlash tonight
for his denial of Hurricane Maria's death toll...
>> President Trump is someone who has realized
that conspiracy theories work for him.
If he's going to be able to keep his base happy,
he has to continue to feed them red meat.
And that red meat consists, a lot of times,
of, of conspiracy theories.
>> If you have a windmill anywhere near your house,
they say the noise causes cancer,
you tell me that one... okay?
>> Windmills cause cancer.
But for fact's sake, that is just not true.
>> There was no collusion, there was no obstruction,
everybody knows it.
It's all a big hoax.
It's... I call it the witch hunt, it's all a big hoax.
>> Uranium deal to Russia with Clinton help
and Obama administration knowledge
is the biggest story that fake media
doesn't want to follow...
>> NARRATOR: Jones was on a high.
>> They write my stuff into speeches and Trump approves it.
It's like with Trump, when he goes, "Okay, yeah, yeah, that,
that, that's right," I've had these conversations with Trump,
I start talking and he finishes the sentence,
I finish the sentence--
it's weird, man. It's weird.
>> And so someone like Alex Jones, who can come in
with wild theories and, and Donald Trump repeats it as fact.
You have newspapers printing it as fact.
You have media and television shows repeating it
as though it's fact.
And then you have Donald Trump tweeting it as though it's fact.
We are in a position where many Americans are susceptible
to not just false information, but lies
that they believe is truth.
>> NARRATOR: But with influence came a new level of scrutiny.
>> Will you raise your right hand, please?
Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you are about to give
will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
>> I do.
>> NARRATOR: Those parents from Sandy Hook
had been pursuing him in court.
>> I simply had enough, and that was... what needed to be done.
>> I'm proud of bringing the lawsuit.
Uh, it brought a lot more attention to who he really is,
and what his show represents.
>> Can you now admit that you've done an outrageous wrong
to these parents? Can you admit that?
>> You know, the mainstream media is who always takes it
and makes it a huge issue and then says
that I'm saying it and gets me to respond.
And it's lawyers like you and people that glom onto this
for fame that then try to get the fame
and then say that I'm the person that's promoting it.
And it's obscene, in my view.
>> NARRATOR: It was at this point that Jones shocked
>> Mr. Jones claimed that the reason that he said
that Sandy Hook was fake is because he was suffering
from a kind of psychosis.
>> That I've, you know, 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, now I'm learning a lot of times things aren't staged.
>> Because it wasn't just about Sandy Hook.
What, what he was saying is that,
"There's a psychosis I have, some form of psychosis,
that makes me believe that every event is staged."
>> My opinions have been wrong
but they were never wrong consciously to hurt people...
>> In other words, for Jones, it's a universal pass.
>> NARRATOR: Under oath, Jones made a reluctant admission.
>> And, and, so over the years, I've...
you know, especially as it's became a huge issue,
had time to, you know, really retrospectively think about it.
Uh... and as the whole thing matured, you know, I've had,
had a chance to believe that children died, uh...
and it's a tragedy.
>> As far as I'm concerned, I've already won.
Having Alex Jones admit under oath that Noah did die
the way it was reported, in his school, that's a victory for me.
>> NARRATOR: The lawsuits would continue.
>> Alex Jones banned from Facebook and from YouTube...
>> NARRATOR: But they were just the beginning
of Jones' problems.
>> Alex Jones has been deleted, digitally de-platformed...
>> Apple, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, Pinterest, and LinkedIn
have all removed material...
>> NARRATOR: Jones took his case to Washington.
>> They're gonna have the heads of Facebook
and Twitter up there...
>> NARRATOR: He had been de-platformed,
banned by the social media giants,
for dehumanizing language,
glorifying violence, hate speech.
>> There was a backlash, there was a backlash where people
started to really try to examine this person.
>> They started to review, internally,
you know, are we monetizing this guy?
Are we supporting the horrible things that he's doing?
>> NARRATOR: Jones tried to portray it as a conspiracy
by the deep state and globalists.
>> I am here because there is a concerted effort
by the Democratic Party, multinational corporations,
and big tech to silence conservative
and nationalist and populist voices.
That's why I've been targeted...
>> So I can't have a press conference,
as you can see, in America, cannot face my accusers.
>> The tech giants were incredibly slow to respond
to what Mr. Jones was doing.
They were more than happy to allow Mr. Jones to make money
for their platforms, causing mayhem and hysteria.
They were absolutely happy to do it.
And at some point, it became too much for them,
and some of it became this lawsuit.
Some of it became Mr. Jones' conduct.
>> NARRATOR: Those around Jones saw something else--
revenge from the left for Jones' alliance with Trump.
>> My own view is that it has the fingerprints
of an organized attack.
Within two years of Trump's election,
he faces an onslaught of lawsuits
from all across the country like the kind
he had never faced before.
And he is completely removed
from almost every social media platform.
And his voice is censored or silenced,
it's an unprecedented attack on any individual
that I've ever witnessed.
>> NARRATOR: By 2020, Alex Jones was exploiting
another national tragedy...
The coronavirus pandemic.
>> Globalists inside our government to create the fear
and allow the nation to never re-open.
This is a Chi-Comm globalist bioweapon
meant to shut down our economy.
>> NARRATOR: Fear, economic collapse, partisan division...
>> (crowd chanting): U.S.A.!
>> NARRATOR: And he was still in lockstep with the president.
>> The Democratic Party, the liberals,
are cheering this virus.
>> Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,
you know that, right?
They're politicizing it.
>> NARRATOR: And soon, race would emerge again, too.
>> Black lives matter!
>> George Floyd, bombed out of his brain on Fentanyl, died...
So what's all this so-called rioting about?
It's not about injustice, it's about control and power.
>> NARRATOR: All fuel for the fire stoked by Trump and Jones.
>> But they want to keep us locked in our homes?
>> It is a Chi-Comm laboratory experiment...
>> And guess what, after November 3, coronavirus will
magically all of a sudden go away and disappear...
>> Conspiracism has become a recognized and accepted way
of exercising political power.
>> A lot of people are saying it may have been
a biological weapon that potentially may have leaked
out of Wuhan.
>> It creates a kind of polarization
in the population that's much deeper
than partisan polarization.
>> George Floyd was actually killed three years ago
>> White supremacist organizations
as being responsible for some of the violence...
>> It's a polarization about what it means to know something.
>> Total population control,
it's what the National Security Agency...
>> I think it's likely to spread across the political spectrum.
>> A foreign government could try to steal the election
by printing absentee and mail-in ballots...
>> And whether it returns to the fringes or not
will depend on whether people in office can resist using it.
>> They rigged an election.
They rigged it like they've never rigged an election before.
...we won in a landslide, this was a landslide.
>> (crowd chanting) Stop the steal!
Stop the steal!
Stop the steal!
>> 400,000 ballots appeared from nowhere...
>> Stop the steal!
Stop the steal!
Stop the steal!
>> We will stop the steal...
We're gonna walk down to the Capitol...
and I'll be there with you.
>> So let's start marching and I salute you all.
>> (crowd chanting) U.S.A!
>> You have stabbed us in the back one too many times.
We're coming with truth and justice and non-violent
Take a look behind you, look at that (bleep) crowd.
>> (Crowd chanting) U.S.A!
>> And we fight, we fight like hell...
...And if you don't fight like hell, you're not gonna
have a country anymore.
>> (crowd chanting) Fight for Trump!
>> Today is not the end, it's just the beginning.
>> Go to pbs.org/frontline
for our latest reporting on this story...
more on how conspiracies theories are fueling unrest.
>> Conspiracism has become
an accepted way of
excercising political power.
>> And a new episode of our podcast about the attack
on the Capitol.
>> At congress there is this real sort of sense of
>> Connect with "Frontline" on Facebook,
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and stream anytime on the PBS App or pbs.org/frontline.
>> For more on this and other "Frontline" programs,
visit our website at pbs.org/frontline.
"Frontline's" "United States of Conspiracy"
is available on Amazon Prime Video.