A mom whose first-grade son was murdered in 2012’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting now finds herself fighting a national news network — and asking for her voice to be heard.
Earlier Tuesday, Nicole Hockley, the co-founder and co managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, an anti-gun violence advocacy organization, wrote a letter to NBC chairman Andy Lack asking them to pull the Megyn Kelly’s controversial interview with Alex Jones.
Jones, the host of Infowars, has spread the falsehood that the shooting that killed 20 children and six adults — including Hockley’s 6-year-old son, Dylan Hockley — was a hoax. The interview is scheduled for Sunday, which is Father’s Day.
“We want to put the pressure on NBC — first of all we don’t support anyone who gives platforms to conspiracy theorists,” Hockley tells PEOPLE. “But more importantly than that, even just the last 24 hours has given Jones significant publicity and further action to reach those who support him and the ability to generate more followers.”
Hockley only found out about Kelly’s interview Monday morning.
“I’m trying to understand [Kelly’s] intentions behind the piece and what she wanted to achieve,” says Hockley. “I haven’t seen the piece so I have to reserve judgment on that. She is a good person; I have to believe her intentions are well-meaning. But I think she and NBC are missing the bigger picture here in what giving a voice to this sort of man can do in terms of damaging people and families. That’s why I’m asking them to stop the broadcast.”
Hockley says Kelly “explained that as a journalist, she felt it was important because he’d been elevated by others in the country without any credibility. She’s trying to expose him for what he is and ensure that people question why someone like this would be elevated to such a position and given credibility when he has nothing credible to say.”
But while she understands the intent, Hockley says she opposes “anyone who gives a platform or voice to conspiracy theorists. It’s just not something Sandy Hook Promise believes in because we know that as soon as you make it about the conspiracy theorist, it supports them and it impacts families, people who have been impacted by tragedy — including ourselves.”
Hockley says Kelly and NBC are “missing the bigger picture here in terms of trying to expose the issue and someone who’s been given credentials at the White House and support at the highest level—that might be what they’re trying to do, but the impact of those actions are going to be felt by families.”
Still, she says, “I truly do not think that Megyn or NBC are trying to harm families,” adding that Kelly “has been supportive and compassionate in the past.”
“I think this is a mistake and a bad judgment call,” she adds. “We all make mistakes sometimes, so I would much rather see NBC and Megyn admit that this was a poor judgment call to interview Alex Jones, and to rectify this situation by pulling the interview and not giving this issue anymore publicity.”
‘It Makes What’s Already Unbearable that Much Worse’
Hockley says Kelly “believes in what she’s doing as a journalist. On this, we just have to respectfully disagree with each other.”
Kelly has interviewed Hockley and other families from Sandy Hook in the past.
“We’ve always found her to be a very compassionate interviewer, she’s a mom,” Hockley stresses. “She truly feels how awful this tragedy was and wants to do something to help it.”
When Hockley asked Kelly to host the organization’s annual gala, scheduled for Wednesday in Washington, D.C., Kelly immediately said yes. But the organization has since rescinded its invitation to host.
“Yesterday came as a complete surprise … because we weren’t able to reach an agreement in terms of anything changing, I had to ask her to step down as host,” Hockley says.
Kelly, she says, “was apologetic that she’s causing any distraction toward our event because she’s very supportive of what we do. But she has to maintain her journalistic integrity. I can appreciate everything she’s saying to me, it’s just the bigger picture here I don’t think is being understood or addressed correctly.”
Hockley says that “as soon as you engage and give voice to these people, they come out louder than before.”
She adds, “I’ve blocked more people than I’ve followed on Twitter, and I’ll continue to block anyone who attempts to harass me online or through the mail or to my house. Some of these people are cowards who hide behind their anonymous avatars, and some of them unfortunately have become quite dangerous.”
“That’s what concerns me,” she continues. “If people could even try to imagine losing a child or someone you love — and act like what happened at Sandy Hook school didn’t happen—and then to be forced to have to get this continual harassment from people who say your child never even lived or your child never died or you’re just an actress, and just to ignore the pain and create more layers of pain and anguish on top—no one would ever expect this to happen. It makes what’s already unbearable that much worse.”
“You don’t feed the beast. Just ignore it. They’re seeking publicity, notoriety and what they regard as fame. I categorize Alex Jones in this. Just don’t give them anything. If they don’t have anything to fuel the fire, they’ll eventually burn out. That’s what I’m hoping.
Petition: ‘It’s Cruel and Dangerous to Give Him a Platform’
Sandy Hook Promise launched an online petition Tuesday urging NBC not to air Kelly’s interview.
“I’m a Sandy Hook Promise supporter, and I do not want to see Alex Jones lie about tragedies on national television,” the petition begins.
It adds, “It’s cruel and dangerous to give him a platform. We should be talking about solutions to gun violence instead of enriching those who lie about it and its victims. Please do not air this interview.”