In case you missed it, a smattering of conspiracy theories about last month’s shooting in Newtown, Conn., has been making the rounds on the Internet. One claims the massacre never happened, while another states it was a plot by the government and the media to take people’s guns away.
Grieving Newtown families have been negatively impacted because of the conspiracy theories floated by the so-called Newtown truthers, with some getting harassed by hateful messages and prank calls.
Among those pushing the conspiracy theories is James Tracey, a tenured professor at Florida Atlantic University. Because of his status as a professor and educator at a public university, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who rarely acknowledges outrageous conspiracy theories, responded to Tracey during a recent edition of “AC 360.”
Cooper initially took on Tracey’s claims on his program last week, but discussed them on his show again after the professor wrote on his personal blog that the CNN host wanted “to cause him harm.” Cooper said he didn’t and went on to acknowledge the professor’s right to free speech. “But as a teacher at a public university, we think he should be accountable for the things he says and be willing to defend them,” he said.
On his program Tuesday, Cooper went after other “anonymous Internet trolls” besides Tracey who are pushing conspiracy theories.
You can watch the segment below.
Cooper patiently debunked theories about the media coverage of the shooting, and brought on two guests, one of whom was the family member of an Aurora shooting victim, to address the conspiracies. Cooper pointed out much of the evidence cited is based on initial reporting, which Cooper admitted can often be inaccurate. Alex Seitz-Wald said many conspiracy theorists are taken in by confirmation bias and ignore any evidence that contradicts their conspiratorial beliefs.
Cooper noted that people closely tied to the shooting are being harassed by individuals convinced they’re part of an evil conspiracy. Jordan Ghawi, the brother of one of the Aurora shooting victims, explained how people have been accusing him of being an actor trying to help the government push for more gun control. He said these people are dangerously disturbed and shouldn’t be the kind of people who have guns in the first place.
Cooper found it “offensive” that these “anonymous internet trolls” would doubt the believability of a grieving parent.