Alex Jones and Donald Trump: How the Candidate Echoed the Conspiracy Theorist on the Campaign Trail

Share:
July 28, 2020

As 2015 drew to a close, then-candidate Donald Trump made an appearance that was unprecedented in the history of modern presidential campaigns.

It was on InfoWars, the hard-right outlet run by extremist conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, a trafficker in false information who had exploited national tragedies from 9/11 to Newtown. And it was brokered by Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone, a frequent InfoWars guest, in a bid to win over Jones’ millions of viewers.

“Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down,” Trump told Jones, who for years had been pushing a message that “elites” and “globalists” are part of a secret conspiracy that controls the world. “You will be very — very impressed, I hope.”

A new FRONTLINE documentary traces how the alliance between Jones and Trump, facilitated by Stone, would help to bring conspiracy theorist thought into the political mainstream — ushering in the current era, in which misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic has spread like the virus itself.

That documentary, United States of Conspiracy, includes a striking sequence that illustrates how Trump adopted Jones’ claims voicing them publicly in a way that shocked even InfoWars staffers as he ran for the highest office in the land. 

“I mean, sometimes it was, like, verbatim — like, really Trump, really? You’re taking his word for it?” former InfoWars staffer Rob Jacobson says.

Embedded at the top of this story, the sequence juxtaposes clips of Jones sharing false and conspiratorial claims about then-President Barack Obama, Senator Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton with Trump making strikingly similar claims at rallies and in interviews. 

The presidential candidate’s echoing of Jones on the campaign trail was a significant development in the mainstreaming of conspiracy theorist thought. And it stunned author Jon Ronson, a renowned expert on extremism who has been following Jones for 20 years.

“The big shock was Alex having the ear of a president-to-be,” Ronson says in the excerpt. “Of all the people I’ve interviewed over 35 years, I can think of a lot of people I would rather have the presidency than Alex Jones. It’s a bit of a shame that one of the most spiraling people I’ve ever met is the one who is influencing Trump.”

For the full story, watch United States of Conspiracy, which is now available to stream in full online and on-demand. From veteran FRONTLINE filmmaker Michael Kirk and his team, the documentary reveals how conspiracy theories have come to play an outsize role in American politics — and what that means for American democracy as the coronavirus pandemic continues, the country reckons with racism, and the 2020 election looms.

“Conspiracism has become a recognized and accepted way of exercising political power. It creates a polarization in the population that’s much deeper than partisan polarization — it’s a polarization about what it means to know something,” Nancy Rosenblum, co-author of A Lot of People Are Saying, says in the film. “I think it’s likely to spread across the political spectrum. And whether it returns to the fringes or not I think will depend on whether people in office can resist using it.”

Stream the full United States of Conspiracy documentary below, on the PBS Video App or on YouTube.

This story was updated to include an embed of the full documentary, and the fact that it is now streaming online and on-demand.


In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stories

Wisconsin Recount Targets 2 Democratic Strongholds, Home to Black and Hispanic Voters
Unlike other places, where the Trump campaign has pursued statewide recounts, the Wisconsin request was limited to Dane and Milwaukee Counties, where Biden held solid leads.
November 25, 2020
7 New Documentaries to Watch over Thanksgiving Break in 2020
Plus, one new podcast to listen to.
November 25, 2020
‘I'm Not A Monster’: Who's Who from the Podcast
Meet the key players in 'I Am Not A Monster,' a special podcast series on how an American mother ended up in the heart of ISIS' self-declared caliphate.
November 24, 2020
On Night of Ginsburg’s Death, McConnell Pushed Trump to Nominate Amy Coney Barrett
An excerpt from FRONTLINE’s ‘Supreme Revenge: Battle for the Court’ goes inside Sen. McConnell’s swift maneuvering to achieve a 6-3 conservative majority.
November 24, 2020