Alex Jones, founder of the far-right US website InfoWars, has filed for bankruptcy after being ordered to pay almost $1.5bn in damages to the families of victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting.
The families sued the media host for his repeated false claims that the 2012 Connecticut massacre, in which 20 children and six teachers were killed, was a hoax.
In his personal Chapter 11 filing in Houston, Jones estimated his assets to be worth between $1mn and $10mn and liabilities ranging from $1bn to $10bn, with 50 to 99 creditors to be paid.
The move comes after a Connecticut jury in October awarded eight families of the Sandy Hook victims, as well as an FBI agent who responded to the shooting, a total of $965mn in compensatory damages. The next month, Jones was ordered to pay a further $473mn in punitive damages.
The verdict in Connecticut followed a similar one in Texas, in which a jury awarded almost $50mn in damages in August to the parents of one child killed in the shooting.
InfoWars filed for bankruptcy protection in April, also in Texas, amid multiple defamation lawsuits brought over the same false claims. The move was widely interpreted as a potential way for Jones to limit his financial exposure.
The families’ lawsuit alleged that Jones used his Sandy Hook conspiracy theory to attract listeners and for financial gain.
Jones has spent years falsely telling the listeners of his far-right radio programme that the shooting was staged by anti-arms plotters and that the victims’ families were actors.
During the trial that resulted in the $1.5bn award to the families, Jones conceded that the massacre did happen but said he had apologised and would not continue to do so.
Despite his claims and legal troubles, as well as being banned from major social media platforms, Jones’s InfoWars still attracted an audience. In the past month, there were 7.7mn visitors to the InfoWars website, according to data from analytics firm Similarweb.
On the day of the October judgment, Jones said there “ain’t no money” to cover the damages and that he would file an appeal.
Families suing Jones have argued that they had been harassed and faced threats as a result of his lies. The bankruptcy filings from both Jones and InfoWars suggest those payments could be delayed since the families now have to attempt to collect their award as creditors through the bankruptcy court proceedings.
An expert witness in the Texas case estimated that Jones and his media assets were worth up to a combined $270mn.
An attorney for Jones did not immediately respond to a request for comment.