In This Episode
- A jury in Connecticut ordered Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay nearly $1 billion in damages to the families of eight victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting. The verdict is the largest award to date for those families, who say they’ve suffered for years because Jones has repeatedly claimed the massacre was a hoax.
- Members of the Oath Keepers are currently on trial for seditious conspiracy, as more information comes to light about how right-wing, white nationalist militia groups allegedly helped plan and execute the attack on January 6.
- And in headlines: the Biden administration released its National Security Strategy Report, Nury Martinez resigned from her seat on the Los Angeles City Council, and the U.S. authorized updated COVID booster shots for young kids.
- Vote Save America: Every Last Vote – https://votesaveamerica.com/every-last-vote/
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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, October 13th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What A Day encouraging everyone who got a MacArthur Genius grant to spend at least some of their money on a nice, relaxing beach vacation.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. You know what? You need to rest that big, beautiful brain of yours. You deserve it.
Juanita Tolliver: I mean, we really can’t afford to have you guys burning out on us.
Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely not. [music break] On today’s show, Nury Martinez has stepped down from the L.A. City Council. Plus, Amazon workers in upstate New York begin a crucial vote over whether to unionize.
Priyanka Aribindi: But first, InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was ordered to pay nearly $1 billion dollars in damages to the families of eight victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting for their suffering, after years of calling the massacre a hoax.
Juanita Tolliver: Good, like this isn’t justice by any mean. Based on the trauma and loss these families experienced. But good.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes.
Juanita Tolliver: All right. This sounds like a massive amount of money. How’d they get there Priyanka?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, definitely huge. It’s the largest amount that’s been awarded so far to these families through the multiple defamation suits that have been filed against Jones because of his Sandy Hook conspiracies. The reason why the amount here is so astronomically large is because Jones was found liable of violating Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act by using his lies and conspiracy theories to sell products on Infowars. And there is no cap on damages under that law. Just as a reminder, Jones told his audience within hours of the 2012 shooting that it was staged, that it was all a hoax by the government to take away guns. He went on to call the parents of the young children who were killed, crisis actors. He is an absolutely reprehensible human being. The size of the damages here indicate just how serious and just how disgusting the jurors found his conduct.
Juanita Tolliver: He is so disgusting. And this isn’t the only case against Jones. Can you tell us more about who was involved in this lawsuit specifically and then how it fits into the other cases?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, there were a total of 15 plaintiffs in this case, including family members of the victims and an FBI agent who responded to the shooting. And they were all awarded varying amounts of this large sum. The largest single award was $120 million dollars. It went to Robbie Parker, whose six year old daughter Emily was killed in the massacre. He testified about being repeatedly singled out by Jones and confronted and harassed by InfoWars followers for years, going so far as to move 3000 miles across the country to Washington state just to get away from these people, or at least to try and as you said, not the only case going on against Alex Jones. This is one of three defamation suits that have been filed against him by relatives of Sandy Hook victims. Back in August, Jones was ordered to pay $49.3 million dollars to the parents of another six year old who was killed. That was the same trial where he ultimately conceded that after nearly a decade of peddling these conspiracies, that the shooting was in fact real. That it did actually happen. He still faces a third damages case in Texas that is tentatively scheduled for later this year.
Juanita Tolliver: Now, I know this is a lot to take in for the families, but can you describe the reaction to this verdict?
Priyanka Aribindi: This money, as he said, it’s not bringing back the 20 children and the six educators who were killed at Sandy Hook, but the families of the victims were hopeful about the message that the verdict sent. This is Erica Lafferty, whose mother, Dawn, was Sandy Hook Elementary’s principal.
[clip of Erica Lafferty] I’m incredibly proud and thankful for the message that was sent here today. The truth matters. And those who profit off of other people’s pain and trauma will pay for what they have done. There will be more Alex Jones’ in this world. But what they learned here today is that they absolutely will be held accountable.
Priyanka Aribindi: Words have power. Words are actions that have consequences. As for Jones’s reaction, he was not actually in the courtroom at the time. He was actually broadcasting on his show live on the air when the verdict came down, like this man does not miss a beat.
Juanita Tolliver: I know you are lying.
Priyanka Aribindi: No, not lying to you. He was live on the air. He called it a joke and he asked, do these people actually think they are getting any money? He then went on to try and convince the audience to send him donations and according to his lawyers, they will be appealing the decision.
Juanita Tolliver: So this is like a fundraiser for him. He just treats this like a fundraiser.
Priyanka Aribindi: Pretty much. I mean, there have been questions about Jones’s finances, especially amid these large amounts of money that he’s being ordered to pay. InfoWars, his parent company, declared bankruptcy for the second time this year back in August, though, Jones is accused of funneling nearly $62 million dollars out of the company for himself starting back in 2018, when the first of these Sandy Hook suits was filed. At this time, it’s believed that Jones is worth $270 million dollars, with InfoWars bringing in $80 million dollars annually. Their product sales actually increased by 50% since his trial in Texas, not to mention the millions of dollars of donations that he has begged his fans for. We will obviously keep you updated as soon as we know more about all of this.
Juanita Tolliver: It’s just wild to me that not only does he fundraise off of this, but he is now worth $270 million because–
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Juanita Tolliver: –People in this country give him money for his lies.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right. It’s disgusting.
Juanita Tolliver: It’s utterly disgusting. All right. So hard pivot. While a lot of folks are gearing up for what is most likely going to be the final January 6th select committee hearing later this afternoon. We should also be paying attention to the ongoing seditious conspiracy trial spearheaded by the Department of Justice against the Oath Keepers. This is the first of two seditious conspiracy trials. The other is for members of the Proud Boys. You remember them, the folks Trump told to stand back and stand by during a debate.
Priyanka Aribindi: How could I forget?
Juanita Tolliver: So more and more information is coming to light about how these right wing, white nationalist militia groups allegedly helped plan and execute the attack on January 6th.
Priyanka Aribindi: Okay, so what exactly do these charges mean and what new information has been uncovered so far?
Juanita Tolliver: All right. The charges essentially mean that Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers and four of his members conspired to use force to overthrow the government and delay the certification of the 2020 election. And it’s a huge charge and it’s a huge deal that the DOJ brought these charges.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Juanita Tolliver: As far as new information that’s been uncovered. Well, it’s kind of dark Priyanka. Based on yesterday’s testimony from Terry Cummings, an oath keeper from Florida, Florida man. The group collected a stockpile of weapons in a budget motel room in Arlington, Virginia, just across the river from D.C. And he said, quote, “I had not seen that many weapons in one location since I was in the military”.
Priyanka Aribindi: Probably like ding, ding, ding. Like you should know that’s not right then.
Juanita Tolliver: Right. That should be your red flag.
Priyanka Aribindi: Big red flag.
Juanita Tolliver: But of course. Since he showed up with his own AR-15, he was just putting it on the pile.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Juanita Tolliver: You know.
Priyanka Aribindi: I guess.
Juanita Tolliver: Prosecutors are calling the arsenal a quick reaction force that was staged as part of a plan to stop the peaceful transfer of power. The prosecution also presented encrypted text messages from December 2020 that outlined the Oath Keepers plans to press Donald Trump to invoke the Insurrectionists Act, a move they argue would allow them to have acted as a militia to support Trump and then forcibly prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 election results. According to reports, Brian Ulrich, an oath keeper from Georgia who has already pleaded guilty to the seditious conspiracy charges, also sent an encrypted message, noting that only action from Trump would prevent mass violence and mass death. They were prepared for war.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, clearly. Um. So not only is this information incredibly dark, it paints a very clear picture of how much worse things could have been on January 6th.
Juanita Tolliver: Right. The planning, the weapons, the coordination, the intention. It’s all being laid out. And you better believe that some of the new information uncovered in depositions and testimony by the January 6th Select Committee is going to be leveraged in these trials. Remember, this summer, the DOJ was pressed to get all of the copies of witness depositions and testimony transcripts because they wanted to use that information in their ongoing investigations. And so all of this information continues to build and build upon itself essentially, as these parallel probes outline how these militia groups interacted with Trump and Trump administration officials. Recently, a witness in the Oath Keepers trial testified that Stewart Rhodes not only claimed to have a contact inside of the Secret Service, but also that he tried to get in touch with Trump through an intermediary on the evening of January 6th. Maybe, just maybe, the select committee will reveal more about that during today’s hearing. Since they received 1.5 million emails, documents and planning materials from the Secret Service in recent weeks. More on all of this very soon, but that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Juanita Tolliver: The White House released its national security strategy report yesterday outlining key threats to the U.S. ahead of a, quote, “decisive decade”. The report identifies two looming challenges restraining Russia and outcompeting China. But it also notes that other global issues like hunger, climate change, and disease pose growing threats to national security and require immediate action. And speaking of international security, NATO is working on a ten year plan to help rebuild Ukraine’s Defense Department amid Russia’s invasion. The idea here is for the alliance to make a long term commitment to support Ukraine with more weaponry and other military resources throughout the war. NATO leaders are set to meet with Ukrainian officials next week to kick things off. Look, the fact that climate change is included as a national security threat, I hope people pay attention to it now and take action.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, seriously, it’s been a big deal. It is a big deal and I’m glad that they are making that very clear. A former Louisville police officer pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a federal misdemeanor charge for using excessive force on demonstrators protesting the 2020 police killing of Breonna Taylor. The white officer, Katie Crews was charged with escalating a conflict that led up to police fatally shooting David McAtee, who was Black. Crews was indicted earlier this year on a felony charge for her role in the killing that would have carried a ten year prison sentence. But under her plea deal, she’d only serve one year behind bars at most. Crews is now banned from working in law enforcement, and her sentencing date is set for January.
Juanita Tolliver: You know what, Priyanka? All I want is police to stop shooting and killing Black people and getting away with it.
Priyanka Aribindi: It really is all anyone’s been asking for for a while now.
Juanita Tolliver: And the irony is not lost on me that this happened at a protest about Breonna Taylor’s murder by police. Right? Like–
Priyanka Aribindi: 1,000%.
Juanita Tolliver: –Wild. Nury Martinez officially resigned from her seat on the Los Angeles City Council yesterday, days after she was heard making racist remarks on a leaked audio recording. This comes after Martinez stepped down from her role as council president earlier this week and announced a leave of absence. And in a lengthy statement announcing her departure from office, Martinez made no reference to her disparaging comments, just that she was, quote, “sorry that we’re ending it this way.”
Priyanka Aribindi: Weird way to not apologize.
Juanita Tolliver: Sorry, not sorry. Not sorry for my racist comments, but okay.
Priyanka Aribindi: No, not at all. Okay.
Juanita Tolliver: Protesters also returned to city hall yesterday to demand the resignations of Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, the two other council members heard alongside Martinez in the recording. As of our recording time of 9:30 p.m. Eastern Time Wednesday, both have yet to step down. Meanwhile, California’s attorney general Rob Bonta, said his office will launch an investigation into LA’s redistricting process. The audio was recorded last year when the city council was undergoing the once in a decade undertaking. He said his office will look into the maps that were redrawn by the council last fall. Good. Look into every bit of it. And I feel like these protesters are saying one down, two to go. Keep it moving.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, like they weren’t just talking about Nury Martinez. Yes. She is the one who got most of the attention. No one thinks you’re good guys in this situation. The Treasury Department is investigating whether Florida Governor Ron DeSantis improperly used federal COVID-19 relief funds to fly migrants to Martha’s Vineyard last month. As a reminder, DeSantis authorized flights to transport dozens of Venezuelan migrants, including children from Texas to Massachusetts, under the false pretenses that they would receive free housing and job opportunities, which they very much did not. This comes after a group of six Massachusetts representatives asked the agency to look into Florida spending. This would be the first time federal officials have said that they are looking into how these flights were bankrolled, which is interesting to me, because we were all wondering for several weeks now.
Juanita Tolliver: Right. Like the fact that DeSantis didn’t use the federal COVID money at the height of the pandemic, but then he used it for a little bit of human traffic, what?
Priyanka Aribindi: And not even from Florida, which is like he’s really just sticking his hands wherever he can get them.
Juanita Tolliver: Right. It’s licensed cartoon character Band-Aid season again because the U.S. authorized updated COVID boosters for kids as young as five yesterday. CDC director Rochelle Walensky gave the green light soon after the Food and Drug Administration approved the shots for that age group. Both Pfizer and Moderna have developed improved boosters that specifically protect against the Omicron variant. Children between the ages of five and 11 can receive the Pfizer version, while Moderna’s shot has been cleared for 6 to 17 year olds. Health officials hope that expanding eligibility for the shots ahead of an expected winter surge will keep cases down. But according to CDC data, less than a third of children, ages 5 to 11, have even gotten their first two shots. And a reminder to adults, you should get your booster now. I’m getting mine on Sunday. I know other team members over here at What A Day have gotten theirs.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Juanita Tolliver: So get your boosters, adults and take your kids.
Priyanka Aribindi: Take your kids. You might want to stagger your appointments. So you’re not, you know, feeling crummy afterwards altogether. I don’t know or do it together either way. There continues to be just one thing Jeff Bezos can’t buy, employees that are 100% submissive. Because yesterday, another Amazon fulfillment center began its union election. The facility is located in Albany, New York, and it could become the second unionized Amazon warehouse in the country. Though Amazon still doesn’t recognize the first one in Staten Island. Amazon workers at a fulfillment center in California also recently filed a petition for a union election, the first one in the state. Other corporations are also struggling with workers whose voices are becoming increasingly loud. A former Starbucks store manager has said that the company pushed him to discipline pro-union employees for reasons unrelated to their organizing activity, like, for example, wearing purple pants. The manager’s claims were published by Bloomberg, and he made them under oath before a National Labor Relations Board judge. Starbucks maintains that it hasn’t retaliated against pro-union workers, but 100 of them have been fired nationwide this year. Meanwhile, the monster who invented egg bites still has a job.
Juanita Tolliver: All right. Number one, shout out to this manager for going on the record and laying everything out that they were–
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes.
Juanita Tolliver: –trying to get him to do.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Juanita Tolliver: And number two, purple pants. Absolutely go with that green apron that they be wearing up in Starbucks.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yup.
Juanita Tolliver: So I don’t know why they’re tripping.
Priyanka Aribindi: No.
Juanita Tolliver: They’re tripping but the fact that 100 of these pro-union workers just happened to have lost their jobs?
Priyanka Aribindi: Just happened.
Juanita Tolliver: That’s ridiculous. And that’s targeted harm. And I hope that the National Labor Relations Board takes action.
Priyanka Aribindi: Hell, yeah. RT that one. And those are the headlines. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Put on a Spider-Man band-aid hopefully after you get your booster and tell your friends to listen.
Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading, not just laws about protecting beautiful purple pants in the workplace like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Juanita Tolliver.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
[spoken together] And take a load off MacArthur geniuses.
Juanita Tolliver: You’ve earned it.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Where are you going to go? That’s the only question.
Juanita Tolliver: Girl, they can go anywhere in the world. They can do whatever they want. [laughing]
Priyanka Aribindi: You really can. [music break] What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.