Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting conspiracy theories

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The official account of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting[1] has been disputed by a number of conspiracy theories. It is widely accepted that on December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza fatally shot his mother, then 20 students and 6 staff members at the elementary school before committing suicide.[2] Proponents of these conspiracy theories question the circumstances of the shooting with Adam Lanza as the sole perpetrator and are using early media reports that included inconsistencies about the identity of the shooter, wrong photos, incorrect location of victims,[3] weapons used[4] and other alleged misinformation[5][6] as evidence for their claims. Others have suggested the shooting was orchestrated by government officials for political reasons,[7] similar to some 9/11 conspiracy theories, claiming that the shooting was deliberately set up to push stricter gun control laws. There are also claims that Lanza was furious at the school due to the school-to-prison pipeline.

Media response to these conspiracy theories has generally described them as contradictory, implausible, without evidence, and offensive to those affected.[8][9][10][11] The Washington Times ran an editorial critical of the conspiracy theories and a "conspiracy culture" in the United States that leads people to ignore difficult truths.[12] Several sources also published articles debunking various claims put forward by conspiracy theorists.[8][13][14][15]

United States government involvement[edit]

Some conspiracy theories have alleged that the shooting was a hoax[16] and a false flag operation staged by the United States government.[17] Others claim the attack is being used by politicians to push through new gun control legislation,[18][19][20] or to otherwise persecute gun owners and survivalists.[8]

Lawyer Orly Taitz was quoted as asking "Was Adam Lanza drugged and hypnotised by his handlers to make him into a killing machine as an excuse as the regime is itching to take all means of self defense from the populace before the economic collapse?"[21]

Israeli involvement and Iranian propaganda[edit]

Press TV, an Iranian state media network published an opinion article by Veterans Today editor Gordon Duff. He quoted Michael Harris, former Republican candidate for governor, who attributed the shooting to "Israeli death squads." The author speculated that the attacks were an act of "revenge" for the perceived cooling of Israel–United States relations under President Obama, especially as a response to Obama's decision to nominate former senator Chuck Hagel, a perceived critic of Israel, for the position of United States Secretary of Defense.[22] The story, which relied on the testimony of an American politician associated with neo-Nazism, written by the editor of an anti-semitic American website was widely criticized in American media as Iranian propaganda.[8][10]

Professor and philosopher of science James H. Fetzer further stated on the same program: “The Sandy Hook massacre appears to have been a psy op intended to strike fear in the hearts of Americans by the sheer brutality of the massacre, where the killing of children is a signature of terror ops conducted by agents of Israel.”[9]

Several other conspiracy theories have suggested Israeli or Jewish involvement. These theories do not generally hold significant credence due to containing perceived elements of anti-semitism.[8][9]

Demolition of School[edit]

Demolition of the elementary school was completed in January 2014 reinforcing conspiracy theorists claims of cover up and foul play. Citizens of Newtown, CT. voted in october 2013 to demolish the existing school, and a new school will replace it on the same site.The Town spent almost $1.4 million on the abatement and demolition of the former Sandy Hook Elementary School.[23]

Additional conspirators[edit]

Ben Swann, a Cincinnati news anchor for Fox affiliate WXIX-TV, has suggested on his personal YouTube channel that Adam Lanza was accompanied by another shooter; he has made similar claims about the Aurora shooting and the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting from earlier in 2012.[24][25] Other theories have posited as many as four shooters were present.[26] Some such reports may have been influenced by early reporting of the events.[8]

Relationship to LIBOR scandal[edit]

Other conspiracy theories have focused on the claim that Adam Lanza's father was an executive with GE Energy Financial Services.[8][27] According to these theories, Lanza's father was supposed to testify before the Senate Banking Committee with information about the Libor scandal. However, no such hearings were scheduled. Similar claims had been made about the father of James Holmes, the suspected perpetrator of the 2012 Aurora shooting.[8][28]

Timestamps of memorial sites[edit]

Theorists point to timestamps for creation dates, whois records, and Google caches of various memorial websites, fundraising sites, and Facebook as evidence of a conspiracy or cover up. They contend that pages were created before or after the date and time of the school shooting. Opponents of these theories counter that a more likely explanation is the possible unreliability of time-stamping and the possibility for timestamps to be assigned to URLs that are then repurposed.[14][15]

UN Arms Trade Treaty[edit]

The UN Arms Trade Treaty, which focuses on arms trafficking and is criticized for its effect on military resources and gun rights, was under negotiation between July 2–27, 2012,[29] and signed by the United States on September 25, 2013.[30] The US has yet to ratify the treaty.[30] The mass shootings reported in the media during that time period (such as the 2012 Aurora shooting, the Washington Navy Yard shooting, and the 2013 LAX shooting) can be seen as failed attempts by the Obama Administration to convince the Senate to ratify the treaty.


Writing about the Sandy Hook conspiracy theories, Benjamin Radford argued that most conspiracy theorists who allege contradictions in official accounts ignore contradictions in their own accounts, citing research from the University of Kent that conspiracy theorists selectively focus on or ignore particular details in order to fit their preferred narrative.[11][31] The conspiracy theories have also been called evidence of "the need for a national debate on mental illness."[32]

Internet debunk site Snopes ran an editorial debunking the "Sandy Hook Exposed" video, explaining how many of the theories make little sense, and answered many questions conspiracy theorists wanted answers to.[33]

Harassments and allegations[edit]

Several parents and family members of the victims have said they have been harassed by conspiracy theorists. Lenny Pozner, the father of victim Noah Pozner, said, "My family and I had already been victimized. Items were stolen off our property and people were driving by our house taking pictures and posting them on the Internet along with their weird theories."[34]

Wolfgang Halbig, who claims he is a former Florida State Trooper and school principal, and heads a website called Sandy Hook Justice, visited Newtown on May 6, 2014, to ask the Board of Education questions. However, the board members, as well as other town officials at the meeting, remained silent.[35]

Gene Rosen, a Newtown resident who was reported to have sheltered six Sandy Hook students and a bus driver in his home during the shooting, has been subject to harassment online alleging he was complicit in a government coverup,[36] among other things.[37] Some journalists have cited such incidents as part of a "Sandy Hook Truther Movement" analogous to the 9/11 Truth movement.[38][39][40] A writer for the Calgary Herald reported that the movement self-identifies as "Operation Terror."[32]

Robbie Parker, the father of victim Emilie Parker – after doing a CNN interview on the day after the shooting – became the target of conspiracy theorists, who claimed the interview was staged.[41] Parker has been attacked by theorists who believe he is a "crisis actor".[42][43]

Some conspiracy theorists have argued that a six-year-old victim of the shooting subsequently appeared in a photograph with President Barack Obama, but the depicted child is the victim's sister wearing her deceased sister's dress.[31][32]

James Tracy, a professor at Florida Atlantic University who teaches a course on conspiracy theories, has suggested the shooting either did not actually occur or occurred very differently than accounted in mainstream reports, claiming political motives for the coverup.[44][45] His allegations were strongly criticized by Patricia Llodra, a Newtown selectwoman.[46] Additionally, Florida Atlantic president Mary Jane Saunders issued a statement that Tracy's views were "not shared by" the university.[47] In response to his comments, the university has opened an investigation of Tracy, who has tenure.[48] Chan Lowe of the Sun-Sentinel speculated that the comments were a publicity stunt by Tracy.[49] Tracy later declined an appearance on CNN with Anderson Cooper, suggesting that Cooper wanted to bring him and his family members harm by identifying him in a prior broadcast.[50][51]

While Tracy has since withdrawn some of his suggestions, conceding that real deaths occurred in the shooting,[52] other sources have continued to claim that the entire event was a hoax.[39] A video similarly questioning official accounts of the shooting received several million views on YouTube within a week of its posting,[40] although the video has since been modified to display a disclaimer explaining that its creators "in no way claim this shooting never took place, or that people did not lose their lives."[53]

On September 12, 2014, during a debate with his opponent Sal Pace, Colorado GOP candidate Tom Ready expressed that he felt that "[the Sandy Hook shootings] have not been proven". He was met with outraged yells from the audience, and received a death threat. It was later reported that Ready apologized for his statement.[54][bare URL]

Other conspiracy theorists have tried to connect the shooting to references in popular culture. These include the fact that Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins lives in Sandy Hook and in her book 22 children are "ritualistically" killed, and 20 children were killed in the shooting, as well as to the fact that "Sandy Hook" can be seen on a map in Dark Knight Rises. This is what some conspiracy theorists refer to as predictive programming.[55]

The stolen sign case[edit]

In May 2014, 28-year-old Andrew David Truelove stole a memorial sign from playgrounds dedicated to victims Grace McDonnell and Chase Kowalski.[56] He then went on to call the parents of Grace McDonnell, proclaiming that he stole the sign and that he believed their deaths were a "hoax".[57] He was eventually arrested on May 30, where the signs were found in his home.[58]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Connecticut State Police Final Report on Sandy Hook shooting incident December 14, 2012". 
  2. ^ Vancouver Sun (January 16, 2013). "Conspiracy theorists claim Sandy Hook tragedy is elaborate government hoax". Edmonton Journal. Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
  3. ^ Smith, Sydney (December 17, 2012). "Media Mess-Ups: Who's Who of Sandy Hook School Shooting Reporting Errors, Part 1". iMediaEthics. Retrieved January 17, 2013. 
  4. ^ Andrew Evans (2012-12-18). "How the Media Got Newtown Wrong". Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
  5. ^ "Misinformation can derail murder debate". Retrieved 2013-01-17. [dead link]
  6. ^ Simon Houpt (26 December 2012). "Messy media coverage of Connecticut shooting leaves trail of misinformation". Toronto: Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
  7. ^ Michael Virtanen (2012-11-26). "N.Y. State Lawmakers Pass First U.S. Gun Control Bill Since Sandy Hook". TIME. Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Bennett, Dashiell (18 December 2012). "Newtown Conspiracy Theories, Debunked". The Atlantic. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c Moynihan, Michael C. (December 12, 2012). "Newtown Conspiracy Theories: Obama, Iran, and Other Culprits". The Daily Beast. Retrieved January 9, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Fisher, Max (18 December 2012). "Iran’s state-run news network blames ‘Israeli death squads’ for Sandy Hook shooting". The Washington Post. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Parry, Wynne (27 January 2012). "Contradictions Don't Deter Conspiracy Theorists". LiveScience. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  12. ^ "Editorial: A Conspiracy Culture". The Washington Times. 15 January 2013. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  13. ^ "Sandy Hook Exposed". Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Stuart, Hunter (11 February 2013). "Sandy Hook Hoax Theories Explained: Why Newtown 'Truther' Arguments Don't Hold Up". Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  15. ^ a b Sieczkowski, Cavan (16 January 2013). "Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theory Video Debunked By Experts". Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  16. ^ Vancouver Sun (2013-01-11). "Conspiracy theorists claim Sandy Hook tragedy is elaborate government hoax". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
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  18. ^ "Sandy Hook conspiracy cult: Shootings a hoax staged to pass gun control laws". Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
  19. ^ Luke Hammill (January 16, 2013). "Sandy Hook conspiracy theories spread in wake of Newtown tragedy". Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
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  21. ^ Celock, John (December 18, 2012). "Birther Queen Blames Obama For Sandy Hook Massacre". Huffington Post. 
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  27. ^ Pearce, Matt (31 December 2012). "Body of Connecticut shooter Adam Lanza quietly claimed by his father". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  28. ^ Sarlin, Benjy (17 December 2012). "Newtown Conspiracy Hoax Spreads Fast Across Fringe". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  29. ^ "The Arms Trade Treaty". United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  30. ^ a b "Disarmament Treaties Database: Arms Trade Treaty". United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  31. ^ a b Radford, Benjamin (16 January 2013). "Why Sandy Hook Massacre Spawned Conspiracy Theories". LiveScience. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  32. ^ a b c Goodman, Lee-Anne (15 January 2013). "Conspiracy theorists claim Sandy Hook School mass shooting a ‘government-sponsored’ hoax". Calgary Herald. Archived from the original on February 8, 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
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  36. ^ Seitz-Wald, Alex (15 January 2013). "This man helped save six children, is now getting harassed for it". Salon. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  37. ^ Bennett-Smith, Meredith (15 January 2013). "Gene Rosen, Sandy Hook Hero, Harassed By Conspiracy Theorists Who Claim He's An Actor". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  38. ^ "Sandy Hook Hero Harassed by Burgeoning Truther Movement". Time. 16 January 2013. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  39. ^ a b Aravosis, John (15 January 2013). "Sandy Hook truthers claim the Newtown massacre never happened". Americablog. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  40. ^ a b Read, Max (15 January 2013). "Behind the ‘Sandy Hook Truther’ Conspiracy Video That Five Eight Million People Have Watched in One Week". Gawker. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
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  46. ^ "Newtown official furious after Florida professor makes outrageous conspiracy claims saying that Sandy Hook shooting may not have happened". Daily Mail (London). 9 January 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  47. ^ Miller, Joshua Rhett (9 January 2013). "Sandy Hook community leader rips Florida professor who doubted massacre". Fox News. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  48. ^ Cortes, Ryan (16 January 2013). "James Tracy: FAU opens investigation, leaving him unsure of job status". University Press (Florida Atlantic University). Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  49. ^ Lowe, Chan (11 January 2013). "FAU prof's Sandy Hook conspiracy theory". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  50. ^ Tracy, James (12 January 2012). "Anderson Cooper’s Anti-Conspiracy Tirade". Memory Hole. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  51. ^ Poladian, Charles (12 January 2013). "Newtown Conspiracy Professor Thinks Anderson Cooper Is Out To Harm Him". International Business Times. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  52. ^ Jaccarino, Mike (15 January 2013). "Conspiracy theory professor who said Sandy Hook tragedy never happened NOW concedes some 'people undoubtedly died'". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  53. ^ "The Sandy Hook Shooting - Fully Exposed". YouTube. 7 January 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
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  55. ^ Max Read (2012-12-17). "The Insane Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theories That Are Already Flooding Facebook and Twitter". Gawker. Retrieved 2014-05-31. 
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