NBC's Megyn Kelly defends Alex Jones interview after criticism

(Reuters) - NBC’s Megyn Kelly on Tuesday defended her interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, saying it was important to show why a person who calls the Sandy Hook school massacre a hoax is respected by many Americans, including President Donald Trump.

TV host Megyn Kelly arrives for the Time 100 Gala in the Manhattan borough of New York, New York, U.S. April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The decision to interview Jones, whose ideas are widely discredited, angered some relatives of those who died in 2012 when a 20-year-old man fatally shot 20 first-graders and six educators at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

It prompted a gun control nonprofit linked to some of the victims’ families to cancel its invitation for Kelly to host a fundraising gala on Wednesday in Washington.

And JPMorgan Chase will pull its local advertisements on NBC News programming until after the interview airs on Sunday, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Kelly said in a statement she understood and respected the concerns and she found Jones’ suggestion that Sandy Hook was a hoax “personally revolting” as does “every other rational person.”

But she said it left many wondering how Jones and his “outrageous conspiracy theories” have the respect of millions including Trump, who she said has elevated Jones by praising him and appearing on his show.

“Our goal in sitting down with him was to shine a light - as journalists are supposed to do - on this influential figure, and yes - to discuss the considerable falsehoods he has promoted with near impunity,” Kelly said.

The NBC television network is part of NBC Universal, which is owned by Comcast Corp.

Jones founded the ultra conservative website Infowars.

In a statement on Sunday rescinding Kelly’s invite to host their gala, the Sandy Hook Promise nonprofit said it hoped she and NBC would reconsider and not broadcast the interview.

A JPMorgan Chase spokeswoman declined to comment on the Wall Street Journal report. But a senior bank executive spoke out on Twitter.

“As an advertiser, I’m repulsed that @megynkelly would give a second of airtime to someone who says Sandy Hook and Aurora are hoaxes. Why?” Kristin Lemkau, chief marketing officer at JPMorgan Chase, tweeted on Monday.

Her reference to Aurora regarded the murder of a dozen people by a gunman who opened fire inside a packed movie theater in the Denver suburb in 2012.

Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Andrew Hay