Megyn Kelly’s interview with controversial InfoWars show host Alex Jones became even more contentious Thursday night after Jones released a partial audio recording in what seemed to be an attempt to discredit the upcoming interview and embarrass Kelly.
The audio recording, of a pre-interview conversation between Kelly and Jones, was yet another bump in what has been a challenging week for NBC News. The network has faced intense backlash and demands not to air Kelly's interview with the conspiracy theorist. Several family members of those killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which Jones once theorized was a hoax, have threatened legal action against the network if it airs the clip, and Jones has demanded that Kelly not air the interview, suggesting that it would be deceptively edited to misrepresent his views.
"Information warfare is a two-way street, and we’re going to give as good as we get," Jones said in the video Thursday night, in which he accused Kelly of "attacking" him in the interview.
In the audio released by Jones, Kelly was recorded as promising Jones that the program would not be a "gotcha hit piece." During the same conversation, Jones expressed concerns that segments from his show — of which much "is satire," he said — would be misrepresented.
The highly edited segment, which also included segments of Kelly’s show while on Fox News and headlines from various news outlets reporting on the ongoing controversy, seemed intended to try and inflict maximum damage to Kelly’s reputation while playing into Jones’ oft-repeated claims that the mainstream media is "fake news."
"I’m not looking to portray you as some bogeyman, or do any sort of gotcha moment," Kelly said in the conversations released by InfoWars. "I just want to talk about you. I want people to get to know you. And the craziest thing of all would be if people who have this sort of insane version of you in their heads walk away from this saying, 'you know what? I see, like, the dad in him. I see the guy who loves those kids and is more complex than what I’ve been led to believe.'"
Responding to Kelly, Jones said that he believes "people died" at Sandy Hook.
"I know I’ve done a lot of stuff, some of which I’m not proud of," Jones said, seeming to express concern about his views being misrepresented on the program. "… I say some pretty wild stuff and I’ll admit a lot of it is satire, but also, I’m not being fake about what I’m saying."
The controversy surrounding the interview began following the release of a one-and-a-half-minute video promoting the interview, which Kelly posted to her Twitter account Sunday night. Family members of those killed in Newtown, Conn. immediately hammered Kelly for interviewing Jones, who theorized various conspiracies surrounding Sandy Hook and once said that grieving families were actors and that the shooting was a hoax.
The family members of those killed in Sandy Hook say Jones’ various conspiracy theories about the shooting encouraged threats and harassment against them while they grieved for the loss of their children or their family members. They and other critics have said that airing an interview with Jones on such a large platform is irresponsible and implicitly endorses his conspiracies.
Both NBC and Kelly defended the decision to interview Jones, saying that his reported influence on the president makes him a key interview subject. Still, the network faced a fierce backlash that included calls for an advertiser boycott as well as demands that they not air the segment at all. Kelly was dropped as a host for a gala benefiting a gun-violence prevention nonprofit started by Sandy Hook families. After being dropped, Kelly said that she found Jones' beliefs "as personally revolting as every other rational person does," which in turn incensed Jones.
The network has said it will still air the segment on Sunday night, and said that Jones' audio leak was a distraction.
"Despite Alex Jones' efforts to distract from and ultimately prevent the airing of our report, we remain committed to giving viewers context and insight into a controversial and polarizing figure, how he relates to the president of the United States and influences others, and to getting this serious story right," a spokesperson for NBC News said in a statement Friday. "Tune in Sunday."