TWIN FALLS — Alex Jones, the founder of the far-right conspiracy website InfoWars, has retracted accusations he made linking Chobani to a Twin Falls sexual assault and a rise in crime and disease in the city connected to hiring refugees.
The statement essentially acts as a settlement between Jones and the Greek-yogurt giant after Chobani filed a defamation suit against Jones and two of his companies last month.
"During the week of April 10, 2017, certain statements were made on the InfoWars Twitter feed and YouTube channel regarding Chobani, LLC, that I now understand to be wrong,” Jones said. “The tweets and video have now been retracted, and will not be reposted. On behalf of InfoWars, I regret that we mischaracterized Chobani, its employees and the people of Twin Falls, Idaho, the way we did."
The statement is a far cry from Jones’ initial public response to the lawsuit, when he doubled-down by calling Chobani CEO and founder Hamdi Ulukaya an Islamist who “infiltrated” the United States “with the clear backing of Turkey.”
In that 17-minute anti-Islamic rant, Jones said he would fight the suit. In another video posted that week, he vowed to come to Idaho to expose Ulukaya’s “Islamacist” agenda.
“You want a fight?” Jones asked during the second response video. “You better believe, baby, you’ve got one.”
But instead of fighting, Jones has rolled over. He and his companies had 21 days to fight the suit from the time he received a summons. It’s unclear exactly when he received his summons, but Monday had marked 21 days since the lawsuit was filed.
The video statement has been added to the "corrections" section on the InfoWars website.
According to Chobani, the case has been resolved. Court records show no motions for dismissal were filed Wednesday.
The statement and the retraction of the stories amount to exactly what Chobani had asked for before filing its lawsuit. In the lawsuit, the company’s lawyers said Jones and InfoWars “have declined to remove the defamatory statements or publish a retraction despite multiple written demands.”
Under the threat of the lawsuit though, Jones has removed the statements and published his retraction.
The video that sparked the controversy was published April 11 and reported a direct connection between Chobani and the assault at the Fawnbrook Apartments, in which three refugee boys pleaded guilty to assaulting a 5-year-old girl. County Prosecutor Grant Loebs said there’s no connection between the yogurt factory, which employs some refugees, and the assault.
The video was published on InfoWars and The Alex Jones Channel on YouTube and shared by Jones on Twitter. It “purports to describe Chobani’s practice of hiring refugees and an assault unrelated to Chobani,” the lawsuit said.
In the video, two InfoWars personalities discuss the Fawnbrook case, with one of them saying, “It was pulled into the political argument, of course, because of that refugee program. Chobani, whose factory employs many refugees, was another target of this anti-refugee anger.”
As the presenters discuss the Fawnbrook assault and continually reference its connection to Chobani, B-roll video plays behind them showing Chobani owner Hamdi Ulukaya.
“The background of the video repeatedly depicts, and in doing so misrepresents, Chobani’s owner and Chobani’s products,” the lawsuit said. Jones and InfoWars “knowingly misrepresented the facts” and made the false and misleading statements to harm Chobani’s business and reputation.
“The defendants’ conduct in this matter was extreme, outrageous, and warrants punitive damages,” the lawsuit said. “The defendants publicly communicated the defamatory statements to a wide audience of subscribers and other online viewers causing significant damages to (Chobani). As a result of the conduct of the Defendants, (Chobani) has suffered and continues to suffer substantial damages in an amount to be proven at trial.”
The many conspiracies of Alex Jones
The native Texan is no stranger to controversy. He specializes in provocative conspiracy theories, calling himself the “founding father” of 9/11 conspiracies, saying the terrorist attacks were an inside job by the U.S. government.
Jones has also claimed the December 2012 shooting that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., was “completely faked” and “manufactured.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center described Mr. Jones as “almost certainly the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America,” according to the lawsuit.
Jones was also an early supporter of President Donald Trump’s campaign, and during an appearance on Jones’ show, then-candidate Trump told Jones, “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.”
Though Jones is rarely apologetic, he did make a correction earlier this year similar to the Chobani retraction. In that instance, Jones offered a correction and quasi-apology for InfoWars’ coverage of “PizzaGate,” a far-right conspiracy that accused Democratic officials of running a child sex-slave ring out of Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant. InfoWars removed several “PizzaGate” stories from its website.