A former staffer for the right-wing conspiracy theory outlet Infowars is admitting the staff fabricated stories about Sharia law coming to the United States and a small Muslim community harboring terrorism — even after its own research found no evidence to back the claims.
Josh Owens, who for years was a video editor for the Alex Jones-founded site, wrote in an essay for The New York Times Magazine that he was tasked with traveling to a small Muslim community in rural upstate New York to see if it was a breeding ground for terrorism, as conspiracy theories had claimed. Once arriving in Islamberg, Owens said he found that the community had no connection to violence and had publicly denounced ISIS. The Infowars staffers later interviewed a local sheriff and mayor, who confirmed that people living there were kind and generous, often welcoming in people from the surrounding community to celebrate holidays together.
Infowars still decided to report on the community as a potential breeding ground for terrorism, with a series of alarming stories about "Sharia Law Zones" and "Obama's Terror Cells" coming to the United States.
"The information did not meet our expectations, so we made it up, preying on the vulnerable and feeding the prejudices and fears of Jones's audience," he wrote. "We ignored certain facts, fabricated others and took situations out of context to fit our narrative."
Owens said he looks back on the stories with regret, especially the fear that the reporting likely caused the families in the community. As Fox News reported, three men from Western New York were charged with plotting to blow up Islamberg with explosives. The three — which included two teenagers — were arrested and charged with weapons possession and conspiracy.
Owens said the outlet also pushed for staffers to publish false stories about Sandy Hook and President Obama, and that Jones was an ill-tempered leader who once sent out a memo threatening to ban laughter in the office.Jones has come under fire a number of times for the site's unfounded claims about Muslims and far-right conspiracies, including a lawsuit for his claims that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax and his continued attacks on the families as the legal process played out. Jones used his show to criticize their motives, and lawyers representing the families impacted by the shooting say that InfoWars host Alex Jones sent them child pornography, CTPost reported.