Conspiracy theorist and right-wing radio show host Alex Jones has apologized for promoting the Pizzagate hoax.
Alex Jones, operator of the Infowars website and host of "The Alex Jones Show," has made a name for himself promoting conspiracy theories on his show and site. These include claims such as the 9/11 attacks were carried out by the Untied States government and that the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, according to The New York Times.
During the 2016 election, a new baseless conspiracy theory surfaced alleging that Democratic politicians such as former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta, were running a child-sex ring out of a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant called Comet Ping Pong. Jones promoted and spread the hoax on social media.
Now, Jones has issued an apology to James Alefantis, owner of Comet Ping Pong, for his involvement in spreading the hoax.
"I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him," Jones said in the apology video. "We relied on third-party accounts of alleged activities and conduct at the restaurant. We also relied on accounts of [two] reporters whoa re no longer with us."
Jones continued: "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." He added that the story was based on what was now believed to be "an incorrect narrative."
Following the spread of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, Alefantis and his employees faced regular threats from those who believed the hoax. Alefantis told The New York Times that "it's been a roller coaster of emotion and fear," adding that he still receives daily threats online.
According to The Washington Post, the rumors and theories culminated in December 2016, when a North Carolina man named Edgar Madisson Welch entered the restaurant with a loaded assault rifle and a handgun and fired the rifle several times inside the restaurant. He later said that he was attempting to self-investigate the claims. On March 24, Welch pleaded guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon and interstate transportation of a firearm. He will be sentenced in June.
Following his arrest, Welch told police that he regularly listens to Jones' show because he "touches on some issues that are viable but goes off the deep end on some things."
In February, Alefantis wrote a letter to Jones demanding an apology and a retraction of Infowars' posts about Pizzagate. The letter did not threaten legal action, though some speculate that Jones' public apology may suggest that he was concerned about a potential lawsuit.
Alefantis issued a statement following Jones' apology.
"I am pleased that Mr. Jones has apologized and admitted that he and his employees repeatedly spread falsehoods about me and my restaurant," he said in the statement. "I wish that he would have made this admission and apology months ago. And his apology, while welcome, does nothing to address the harm he and his company have done to me, my business, and my community."
His statement continued: "We can all hope that Mr. Jones' retreat is the beginning of a process to hold accountable the people who motivated an armed gunman to travel across state lines and fire his weapon in a family-friendly restaurant."