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NBC News, Tom Brokaw Toughen Up Megyn Kelly’s Alex Jones Interview As Sandy Hook Denier Pops Champagne

Deadline logo Deadline 6/19/2017 Lisa de Moraes
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NBC News recruited Tom Brokaw to offer an olive branch to Sandy Hook elementary school parents for Megyn Kelly’s interview with conspiracy theorist/hatemonger/Sandy Hook denier Alex Jones on Kelly’s Father’s Day broadcast. Brokaw delivered an editorial that concluded the program, arguing that the “reach and the poisonous claims of Jones and others like him” made him an important subject for a new program [watch below].

Kelly kicked off Sunday Night by directly addressing the controversy about the interview:

“Some thought we shouldn’t broadcast this interview because his baseless allegations aren’t just offensive, they are dangerous. But here’s the thing,” Kelly said, in an almost affectless tone of voice. “Alex Jones isn’t going away.” Brokaw later echoed that defense of the interview that got her and NBC News blasted in certain quarters in recent days, notably by parents of children massacred at Newtown, CT’s Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“Over the years his YouTube channel has wracked up 1.3 billion views. He has million of listeners and the ear of our current president,” Kelly said, adding that Donald Trump famously went on Jones’ show in December of 2014 when he was running for POTUS, and that among the things the two men have in common is years of insistence that  President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

The Jones segment covered mostly familiar terrain, though it may have been news to  some NBC News’ viewers, including his claims Hillary Clinton and other Dems were running a child sex ring out of a Washington pizza restaurant, that elements of the federal government allowed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to happen, and that the Sandy Hook slaughter was a giant hoax performed by actors.

Considering the hoopla and how much time Kelly reportedly spent with Jones during a daylong session, the amount of air time given over to that subject was brief, and much space was given over to a voiceover narrative of Jones’ upbringing and rise in popularity. It’s not known whether  that’s a result of the controversy and push-back, or to clear time for Brokaw’s editorial.

One of Kelly’s fiercest critics, watchdog site Media Matters, called the broadcast “a report that was originally billed as a self-promotional head-to-head showdown with Alex Jones but got turned into “a well-edited investigation of the dangers posed by an unstable megalomaniac with millions of loyal fans, including one in the Oval Office” owing to a “well-deserved firestorm of denunciations.”

Insisting that Kelly deserves little credit for the changes the org warned its damage already had been done, saying “the network’s impotent reaction to Jones’ own grabs for media attention may allow the nation’s biggest producer of conspiracy theory media to come out the winner of tonight’s program.”

Jones seemed to agree. On YouTube, he live-streamed himself breaking open a bottle of champagne and calling the broadcast a big win.

A lot of time in the segment was devoted to a discussion of Jones’ “new and surprising level of influence” thanks to Trump. “We just got a beachhead,” Jones says in the report. That includes a “temporary” White House press pass. Two weeks ago, Kelly said, the Trump-Pence campaign sent a release to supporters, at the bottom of which the President and Vice President of the United States directed them to a link to Infowars.

She began her report showing Jones’ classic reax to tragedy on a big scale, most recently the suicide bombing of concert-goers in Manchester, England. With few facts known, Jones nonetheless quickly “jumped mouth first into controversy” as he previously had done when he claimed elements of the U.S. government allowed September 11 to happen and that the slaughter of 20 Sandy Hook Elementary School children was a hoax.

The bombing in Manchester, Jones said, killed “a bunch of liberal trendies…the same people promoting open borders, bringing islamists in.”

In his interview with Kelly, Jones insisted, “Of course, if kids are being killed by Muslims, I’m not saying it’s their fault,” when she reminded him of the age of many of the victims, some as young as 8 and many teenage girls.

“That pattern of reckless accusation, followed by equivocations and excuses, is classic Alex Jones,” Kelly told her viewers, showing some emotion for the first time in the broadcast.

Days ahead of this evening’s interview, the Infowars founder leaked an audio of a conversation he claimed to have had with NBC News’s “modern-day Medusa” in which she pledged the program would be “fun,” that she wanted to show his more personal side to both his followers and “the left” who watch NBC, and that should would let him review the clips before air.

Tonight’s broadcast did not air on Connecticut’s NBC owned-and-operated TV station whose coverage includes the site of the Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children, aged 6 and 7, as well as six adults were slaughtered by a lone gunman in 2012.

NBC News recruited Brokaw as an olive branch to Sandy Hook parents for the broadcast, in an editorial that concluded the program.

“To the parents of Newtown, it’s not enough to say I cannot imagine. Because, unless we’re the parents, we can never ever share the unremitting pain the lifelong loss and anger,” Brokaw said.

“Nor should they have to hear the cruel claim that it was a lie. No parent or grandparent in American today can escape the fear that it could happen again. We cannot allow the agents of hate to go unchallenged and become the imprint of our time.

“We will always have our differences, of course but, in our finest moments, we’re a republic that tries, when it recognizes common threats, and takes them on. That time is now, again,” Brokaw said.

“This is a time of common threats requiring uncommon courage, he concluded. “It is a time to step up.”

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