Right-wing radio provocateur Alex Jones vowed to “win or die” after Chobani sued him for defamation in April. He did neither, settling the lawsuit this week and issuing an apology and retraction.
The lawsuit said Jones repeatedly published false information April 11 on his InfoWars website, his Twitter feed and his YouTube channel linking Chobani and owner Hamdi Ulukaya to a sexual assault case involving refugee children at a Twin Falls apartment complex. The coverage also linked the company’s practice of hiring refugees to increases in crime and tuberculosis in Twin Falls, a claim the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said was taken out of context.
After the lawsuit was filed April 24, Jones vowed he would come to Idaho with an investigative-journalism team to expose Ulukaya and his “Islamacist” agenda. Ulukaya has drawn threats for advocating for immigrants and refugees. Chobani employs more than 300 refugees at its plants in Twin Falls and upstate New York.
“I’m choosing this as a battle,” Jones said. “On this I will stand. I will win, or I will die.”
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On Wednesday at the end of his radio show, he read a statement retracting previous headlines about Chobani and Ulukaya. The clip was also published to YouTube and on infowars.com.
“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,” he 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 “The tweets and video have now been retracted and will not be reposted.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.”
Chobani confirmed that the lawsuit was settled and declined further comment.
Twin Falls drew national attention in June 2016 after three refugee boys sexually assaulted a 5-year-old girl in a laundry room at an apartment complex. Right-wing websites, including Breitbart News, fanned flames of several conspiracies, including that a group of Syrian men had attacked the girl, that a rape had occurred, that a knife was present and that city officials attempted to cover up the crime, the Times-News in Twin Falls reported.
Police and prosecutors said the conspiracies were false. While details remain unclear because the file remains sealed, prosecutors said one of the boys touched the girl while the other two filmed on a cell phone. Police and prosecutors said there was no rape, no knife was present, and authorities followed proper protocol. The three boys, age 14, 10 and 7, each pleaded guilty to one or more felony charges April 4.
Jones is no stranger to controversial theories. He promoted the baseless “Pizzagate” story alleging Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta, ran a child sex-abuse ring at a Washington, D.C., pizzeria. A North Carolina man came to the restaurant with a loaded assault rifle and a handgun in what he called an attempt to investigate the claims. No shots were fired, and the man was arrested. Jones apologized to the restaurant owner after threats of a lawsuit.
Jones also has said the U.S. government allowed conspirators in the 9/11 attacks to escape, and that the the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting was a hoax that employed child actors.
The Chobani retraction was a stark change in tone for Jones. He responded to the lawsuit on his radio show the next day by attacking Ulukaya, who is a Turkish immigrant, doubling down on his claim that the Chobani owner was tied to the Twin Falls sexual assault.
“He’s bringing in unvetted, migrant Islamacists and they’ve now pleaded guilty to the sexual assault,” he said. “What am I supposed to do?”
Jones also criticized the Idaho Statesman, saying its coverage of the lawsuit was “basically fiction” and that the Statesman catered to Muslims. The Statesman’s website is “like Islamabad,” he said.
InfoWars did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Zach Kyle: 208-377-6464, @ZachKyleNews