School Climate & Safety

Newtown Debates Letter Asking Trump to Denounce Sandy Hook ‘Truthers’

By Evie Blad — February 03, 2017 2 min read
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The Newtown, Conn., school board wants President Donald Trump to denounce Sandy Hook “truthers"—people who claim the 2012 mass shootings at the town’s elementary school were an elaborate hoax.

The board this week authorized its chair to sign a letter to the president, calling on Trump to speak out against people who perpetuate the conspiracy theory that the shootings, in which 20 children and six adults were killed, were staged to drum up public support for stricter gun laws, the Newtown Bee reports. Other Newtown city boards are also considering whether to sign and send the letter.

The letter, which was drafted by Democratic Town Committee Chair Eric Paradis, singles out Infowars personality and controversial radio host Alex Jones, who has supported Trump and who popularized the hoax theory, the Bee reports. Trump praised Jones during the 2016 campaign. The White House has denied rumors that it offered a spot in its daily media briefings to Infowars.

Sandy Hook truthers have tormented families of the shooting victims. One was arrested in 2016 for a death threat against a victim’s relative.

Erica Lafferty, whose mother died in the shootings, previously called on Trump to denounce Jones in a November letter published in USA Today:

Even after an election that exposed deep divisions in our country, surely we can all agree on this: The mass shooting at Sandy Hook happened. Twenty-six families, including mine, were torn apart and will never be the same. Any preposterous ideas to the contrary cannot be allowed to seep into our country’s mainstream discourse. They must be swiftly and publicly refuted. Surely, the newly elected leader of the free world can see that.

Not everyone in Newtown, which has notably shied away from the media spotlight since the shootings, supports the letter. At public meetings of other Newtown town boards, some residents, including the relative of a Sandy Hook shooting victim, said they feared it would be unproductive or stir up backlash and “give oxygen to something that doesn’t deserve it,” the Bee reports. Some town officials have been hesitant to sign onto the letter, the paper reports.

Newtown finance board Vice Chairman James Gaston, spoke in support of signing and sending the letter.

“Families have been threatened and sometimes you have to speak up as someone who had conspiracy theorists supporting him,” Gaston said in a town meeting, according to the Bee. “We’re asking [Trump] to recognize that 26 were killed—denounce all who spread lie —and to not support those who are promoting something hurtful and untrue. We’re not asking to pass a law, we’re asking for support. We received support from President Obama, now we’re asking for support from President Trump.”

Photo: White roses with the faces of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting are attached to a telephone pole in January 2013, on the one-month anniversary of the shooting that left 26 dead in Newtown, Conn. --Jessica Hill/AP-File

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.