'I Stood Up To Alex Jones, And Won'

After enduring two weeks of the defamation lawsuit my ex-husband Neil Heslin and I brought against Infowars host Alex Jones, and struggling throughout to maintain my composure, the judge read the jury's determination. Tens of millions of dollars in damages. It meant that the compensatory and punitive damages awarded us amounted to a total of $49.3 million. My first thought was: They chose love! My attorney had actually closed his argument by asking the jury to choose love over fear. And they had.

But the whole two weeks was a grueling experience, especially leading up to my own testimony. I really just couldn't grasp the reason that we were there. I kept asking myself: Is it possible that we're here because there's a grown man perpetrating lies that are harmful and dangerous? Early on, I was looking at the cameras and thinking that I was going to pass out. I was really not doing well.

One of the attorneys on our team saw me—I must have been white as a ghost—and came over and sat down right next to me. He said, "I want you to think of just one word right now; the word 'relief.'" He told me that was how he wanted me to see this trial, as an extension of what I have been living for the past 10 years since Jesse was murdered and Alex Jones began using his worldwide platform, InfoWars, to perpetuate the ongoing lies that I am a crisis actor, that the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School never happened, that my son, Jesse, never existed and that I was "deep state."

My attorney said that the trial was me facing this and putting it to rest. And that completely changed the way that I was thinking about it. But I didn't feel relief until I heard the jury's final verdict on August 5.

Scarlett Davies's son Died at Sandy Hook
Scarlett Lewis with her son Jesse, who was one of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. Scarlett Lewis

It is difficult to sit and listen to the consequences of your actions. And so I expect Alex Jones felt like it was easier not to be there at the verdict. In fact, he spent much of the trial on his show, talking about what was going on in the courtroom.

But Neil and I were there the entire time. As was my older son and his girlfriend. We blocked out the whole two weeks. That's the importance of this for us. And I found it disrespectful that Alex wasn't there for most of it. Neil, Jesse's dad, had dreamed of confronting him during the trial, but Alex wasn't there during his testimony. He did, however, come into the courtroom during mine.

Speaking the truth to Alex Jones in court

On August 2, I had been up on the stand giving my testimony, but I couldn't find my words. I was so nervous that we took a break. Then Alex Jones came into the courtroom. I assume he thought that my testimony was done, but it wasn't. And so, I found myself sitting in front of him.

I had been so nervous that I hadn't been able to find my words, and all of a sudden, I was looking Alex Jones right in the eye. I felt like I was seeing right into his soul. So, I found strength in feeling compassion for him. I gained equanimity when I looked into his eyes. In that moment, I felt that I saw him for who he truly is.

At the trial, he seemed to be a lonely man; he did not have one person to testify on his behalf. I wondered if his lies were an attempt to fill a void created by lack of love. I know hurt people, hurt people and the compassion I felt for him fueled my expression as I stated my truth for the world to hear.

I got to tell him that I am a mother. And that my son not only existed, he saved nine of his first grade classmates' lives before losing his own to a former student who perpetrated one of America's worst mass shootings. Alex was looking me in the eyes as I spoke; he was engaging with me.

But his attorney was sharp and I wondered what he would ask me during the cross examination? He began describing a part of my book, "Nurturing Healing Love" where I talk about envisioning the 20 children, the 6 and 7 year olds that had been murdered, rising up to heaven in a bright light. I send their murderer, Adam Lanza up with them. I felt that this attorney was going to ask me if I would do the same for Alex Jones, but I beat him to the punch. I would want Alex Jones to be with them, I told him. Absolutely.

The path to forgiveness

I had already talked about forgiving Alex to my alma mater, Boston University. I knew much earlier on that I was going to forgive Alex and I was going to work on my process with him. But we're not born with this knowledge, we have to learn that forgiveness is a way to let go of your own pain, suffering, anger, resentment and frustration. It's a way to take your personal power back. It's a gift that you can give yourself, not something you give somebody else who doesn't deserve it, who may not care or think about the consequences of their actions. Alex Jones may not care that I have forgiven him. I personally think that he does care. But even if he didn't care, that forgiveness benefits me.

So on August 2, I described to the jury how I had learned about forgiveness after my son's murder. It starts with a choice. And then, with Alex, it's a process I work on. For example, when he gets on his show and he says something else, there's something else to forgive. But I do that for myself. Otherwise, I'm giving him control over thoughts that impact how I feel and my behavior. Obviously he's had some of that through the form of fear and anger over the past 10 years. But forgiveness is a very effective tool in taking your personal power back.

Alex Jones Lost Sandy Hook Defamation Case
Alex Jones speaks to supporters of US President Donald Trump as they demonstrate in Washington, DC, on December 12, 2020, to protest the 2020 election. In August 2022, Jones was ordered to pay more than $49million in damages in a defamation lawsuit brought against him by Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, whose son Jesse was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2021. Jones repeatedly claimed that the Sandy Hook massacre was fake. OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

I know the various ways that forgiveness benefits me through the decades of research I have done. I worked a lot on my forgiveness of Adam Lanza. In fact, forgiveness is part of what we teach with the organization I created to honor my son and be part of the solution to the issues we face in our society today: the Choose Love Movement. I weave forgiveness through all of our programming.

It seems inconceivable to me that we don't prioritize our children's safety and wellbeing. This is why I decided to dedicate my life to this endeavor and hope the rest catch up. So, our program offers comprehensive, no cost social and emotional character development to schools, homes and communities across the country and the world. These teach essential life skills that lead to people really flourishing. The movement focuses on what we have in common as human beings, our need to love and be loved as well as how to process hurt and pain and be strengthened by it.

Holding Alex Jones accountable

But while you can forgive someone, that has nothing to do with holding them accountable for their actions. I did want the jury to know that. Forgiveness is what I do for myself, but Alex Jones is still accountable for his actions. And there still has to be a message to the world, to people that are modeling themselves on Alex Jones and his team, that this isn't OK. That we won't tolerate not prioritizing truth in our society.

So I told the jury that letting go of pain for me didn't have anything to do with holding someone accountable for their actions. In fact, I used the example of rape in my testimony. I said that you can forgive the rapist but must hold them accountable.

I have to assume that most people that follow Alex Jones and watch his show have the capacity to determine truth from falsehood. Some however, don't. These people might not have the capacity to handle the hard truth: that 26 individuals were massacred in an elementary school and that these shootings continue to happen on a regular basis.

In the end, this trial's focus was on the importance of truth, and the outcome was a strong message that we are responsible for telling the truth and that lies told with the intent to harm others will not be tolerated. I think that Alex Jones believed that Sandy Hook had happened early on. But it was important that he made the statement that it was "100 percent real" for his followers to hear, and admitted that he was wrong.

This ruling has honored my son Jesse in multiple ways. One is obvious, where you have a man that has said he didn't exist. Jesse's heroic deeds and his full six years need to be celebrated. He deserves that. It was also an opportunity to share his message of nurturing healing love, the fact that I got to play a video so that everybody could see my son and everybody could see the chalkboard he wrote "nurturing healing love" on. It was a beautiful thing to be able to do that.

Our win was a major victory for society as well. Shared truth is what facilitates connections. As human beings, connection is one of our most vital needs to survive and thrive. In fact love is found in connection. This brings us back to the verdict. In this case, love won.

Scarlett Lewis's son Died at Sandy Hook
Scarlett Lewis with her son, Jesse. In 2012, Jesse was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School when he was 6-years-old. In August 2022, Lewis won a defamation lawsuit against Infowars host Alex Jones. Jones was ordered to pay more than $49million in damages. Scarlett Lewis

Using the damages awarded to spread a message of love

For 10 years, I have been adamant that my Choose Love Movement program be free. I know it can transform and save lives, that it will keep kids safe in school, that it is a direct path to flourishing and that every child deserves access to it. But that's been really difficult, and we rely on individual donations. We are already in thousands of schools in every U.S. state and in 120 countries, but I'd love to bring this to the whole world.

That the damages we are awarded would go to spread a message of choosing love rather than hate and fear is poetic justice. And I really do truly think, after our exchange in the courtroom, that Alex would be happy about that.

The response we have had to winning has been overwhelming. We've gotten so many more followers on social media, and so many messages of love. I was wondering, because Alex Jones has a very large following. But many of his followers did not like what he was doing with the messages that he was putting out about Sandy Hook. Some have even called to thank me. We had an employee that works for him reach out and tell us they had no idea of the damage that this messaging was causing. They signed it as, "A soon to be former employee of Infowars."

Love is just a choice we make as individuals every single day, all day long, from the moment that we wake up. Alex Jones has the same decision to make as well. What is he going to do? He is welcome to join the Choose Love Movement and he could do a tremendous amount for awareness and fundraising. So that door is open to him, but he will have to walk through it.

Scarlett Lewis is the founder of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation and the Choose Love Movement. You can follow her on Twitter @ScarlettMLewis or @ChooseLoveM.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

Additional details in this essay were as told to Jenny Haward.