ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
NBC is set to air an interview Sunday between its new host Megyn Kelly and Alex Jones. The decision has led to a backlash that's been growing all week. Alex Jones is a notorious conspiracy theorist and radio host. His media outlet is called Infowars. One of the crueler claims he has peddled is that the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was staged. He's questioned whether the massacre which killed 20 children and six staff members really happened.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Several Sandy Hook parents, including our next guest, condemned the decision to air the interview. In a statement on Twitter this week, Megyn Kelly said her goal was to shine a light on Jones, who has become influential with the White House. President Trump appeared on his show before the election and has given Jones praise.
Well, that reasoning doesn't sit well with Nelba Marquez-Greene. She's the founder and director of the Ana Grace Project, named after her daughter. She was killed at Sandy Hook. It provides therapeutic support in the Greater Hartford area to schools and communities. Marquez-Greene thinks the interview could put families of victims in danger.
NELBA MARQUEZ-GREENE: We don't like to talk about this a lot because we do feel that it shifts the focus from our daughter and her life. But if I'm going to be honest, for five years, we have been subject to harassment, to death threats, to lies on the internet, suggesting that this thing that happened in Newtown didn't happen. And I know we're not the only ones. There are deniers of the Boston Massacre, of 9/11, of San Bernardino and many other tragedies.
CORNISH: Nelba, I want to slow down for a minute because I think this is kind of hard to fathom for any person and especially any parent. What do you mean by harassment? Is this social media? Is this phone calls in the night? How does this happen?
MARQUEZ-GREENE.: It can include social media. It can include email. It can include in person. For my husband to go out and perform and be confronted at a concert...
CORNISH: And he's a jazz musician, right?
MARQUEZ-GREENE.: Yes, so it's not like we can go back and hide under a rock somewhere. This is what we do for our livelihood. And he was playing in New York City. And he was on a set break. And someone came up to him and started by saying, you know, I'm just sorry for your loss. And then the second sentence was, but there are some things we need to talk about because there are some things that just don't add up. And he proceeded to list off the same rhetoric that Alex Jones espouses to my husband at a concert, at which point my husband got up - and he's 6-foot-6, and he's (laughter) a very large man. And the man scampered away. But this is not OK. I think about my safety and my son's safety all the time.
CORNISH: Is this something where every time there's another shooting or massacre event, that it infuses new life into the conspiracy theorists coming after you?
MARQUEZ-GREENE.: You know, it's just - it does happen.
CORNISH: Like, it doesn't fade, it sounds like.
MARQUEZ-GREENE.: Because Sandy Hook is less often in the news, it has faded in that sense. But you're right. Every time something comes up, every time we give light - we do this shine-a-light thing on Alex Jones and that kind of behavior and mentality - it's an uptick on our end.
This week alone, I received a message from a woman who suggested that she - you know, she was sorry she had ever sent us money through the United Way because she understood now that every family involved in the Sandy Hook shooting had their mortgage paid off. And I'm like, what are you talking about? And she - you know, she - it's just a lot to deal with.
CORNISH: How has this affected your grieving?
MARQUEZ-GREENE.: It interrupts the grief process. It's - the only thing worse than losing a child in a mass shooting in America is having to live the rest of your life defending that she's actually gone.
CORNISH: And I know you're saying this as someone who knows a lot about therapy and the grieving process.
MARQUEZ-GREENE.: You know, two things that are essential for grief - for healthy grief and healthy process after the loss of a child are a sense of safety and a sense of control, which is why this particular type of behavior by Alex Jones is so incredibly harmful to families. You know, there are families whose pictures are used on these sites without permission to imply that they are actors. There are families whose pictures of children are used without permission to imply that their kids are still alive and actually in some underground tunnel. My heart is with the families of not just our tragedy but all of them.
CORNISH: You also have a son. And how do you shield him from this?
MARQUEZ-GREENE.: You know, after this week, I've discovered that I can't, that we actually did need to sit down. As a mother, my - and I'm sorry. I'm getting a little bit emotional. As a mother, it's the desire of my heart to keep him from this, right? It's already bad enough that he's involved in this. But you know, we do have to talk to him and have to say, you know, unfortunately, Son, there are people who believe that this didn't happen. And not only that - I need you to be prepared for the moment that one of these people comes to you. And here is a script of things you can say.
CORNISH: A script. What could you even offer him - right? - at 12 years old?
MARQUEZ-GREENE.: You're not allowed to speak to me this way and call for an adult or a grown-up. I'm sorry you feel this way. And move away. State your boundaries. Stand your ground - so that he as a young adult, as a blossoming adolescent is both aware and not afraid but that he's practicing the language that he would need to confront someone who approaches him.
CORNISH: I know you said you've wanted to meet with Megyn Kelly mom-to-mom. Can you say whether she has reached out to you? Have you had a conversation?
MARQUEZ-GREENE.: She did reach out. And all I'll say it was evident that we're not going to meet eye-to-eye. So I declined to participate on the airing of the show.
CORNISH: You know, one of the things I can assume that your conversation centered on is the news value, so to speak, of this interview. And doesn't it help in some way for the public to see and hear someone who is pushed - who is called a conspiracy theorist and a hoaxer?
MARQUEZ-GREENE.: This is a celebrity piece. This is a sensational piece. I don't think it's helpful for anyone to be involved in this. I don't think it's necessary for any of this to be happening now. It's shining the light on the wrong thing. And the egregiousness of this show being aired on Father's Day when - I know a lot of the fathers in Newtown. And these are some of the most amazing men you would ever know. They were - they were and are amazing fathers to the children that they still have and the children that they lost. And this is just so not OK.
CORNISH: On this Father's Day, will you guys be ignoring this interview? Will you be watching it? How are you going to spend that time?
MARQUEZ-GREENE.: My husband, Ana's dad and Isaiah's dad - he is going to play a concert for hundreds of people at the New Haven Festival of Arts and Ideas with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra and feature the music that he wrote in honor of his daughter. That's what I'll be doing. I'm not going to be watching this interview.
CORNISH: Nelba Marquez-Greene, thank you so much for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
MARQUEZ-GREENE.: Thank you for having me and doing this interview.
(SOUNDBITE OF JIMMY GREENE SONG, "SOMETHING ABOUT YOU")
CORNISH: Marquez-Greene's daughter, Ana Grace, was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012.
(SOUNDBITE OF JIMMY GREENE SONG, "SOMETHING ABOUT YOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.