It was a rare sight. A media personality who has made his name by spreading patently false information and crackpot conspiracy theories, apologized for one of his favorite fake news items. Alex Jones of Infowars posted a surprising six-minute video on his website in which he read a legal-sounding document apologizing for his role in spreading claims that a Washington pizzeria was home to a child sex-trafficking ring run by Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager, John Podesta. Jones specifically addressed his apology to James Alefantis, the owner of Comet Ping Pong—which was thrust into the spotlight last year with what became the most stark example of how fake news spread during the presidential campaign.
“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,” Jones said.
Despite the apology, Jones still distanced himself from the fake news, making it sound as though he was a victim of false information rather than one of the main people responsible for spreading the falsehoods. “We were participating in a discussion that was being written about by scores of media outlets, in one of the most hotly contested and disputed political environments our country has ever seen,” Jones said. “We relied on third-party accounts of alleged activities and conduct at the restaurant. We also relied on accounts of reporters who are no longer with us. This was an ever-evolving story, which had a huge amount of commentary about it across many media outlets.”
Although it isn’t clear what motivated Jones to apologize now, fear of legal action may have come into play. Alefantis wrote Jones a letter in February demanding an apology. And even though he doesn’t threaten legal action, under state law Jones had one month to retract or apologize to avoid a lawsuit. The one-month deadline was Friday.
The apology also came on the same day as the man who fired a shot inside the Washington, D.C. restaurant last year due to his obsession with the Pizzagate conspiracy pled guilty to weapons and assault charges as part of a plea deal. Edgar Welch, 28, from North Carolina admitted that he traveled to Comet Ping Pong carrying a rifle and a revolver to “self-investigate” Pizzagate. Welch faces anywhere from 18 to 24 months in prison for the federal charge of transporting firearms through state lines, and 18 to 60 months for the D.C. charge of assault with a dangerous weapon.