Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting conspiracy theories

The circumstances surrounding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting[1] have been doubted or disputed by a number of people, leading to several conspiracy theories. 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] but conspiracy theorists question the circumstances of the shooting, whether Adam Lanza was 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] and weapons used[4] as evidence for their claims. Others have suggested the shooting was orchestrated by government officials for political reasons,[5] similar to some 9/11 conspiracy theories, claiming that the shooting was deliberately set up to push stricter gun control laws.

These conspiracy theories have been described by mainstream news sources as contradictory, implausible, without evidence, and offensive to those affected.[6][7][8][9] Several sources also published articles debunking various claims put forward by conspiracy theorists.[6][10][11][12]


United States government involvement

Some conspiracy theories have alleged that the shooting was a hoax[13] and a false flag operation staged by the United States government.[14] Others claim the attack is being used by politicians to push through new gun control legislation,[15][16][17] or to otherwise persecute gun owners and survivalists.[6]

Lawyer and dentist Orly Taitzbest known for her promotion of Barack Obama citizenship ("birther") conspiracy theorieswas 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?"[18]

Talk show host Clyde Lewis wrote: "Don’t you find it at all interesting that Adam Lanza, the alleged shooter at Sandy Hook, woke up one day and decided to shoot up a school and kill children at about the same time that Barack Obama told the U.N. that he would sign the small arms treaty?"[19]

According to Live Science, "No one, regardless of what side of the gun control issue they are on, can deny that guns played a key role in the Sandy Hook killings. So the conspiracy theorists must instead challenge the claim that the attack even occurred. They believe it's all a hoax to scare people into supporting more gun control and a step toward an outright repeal of the Second Amendment." They also found that the vast majority of evidence used by conspiracy theorists to support the concept that Sandy Hook was a hoax is contradictory.[20] also debunked several claims of alleged United States government involvement in the shootings.[10]

Claims by the Veterans Today website

In an article published by Iran's Press TV, the editor of the Veterans Today website Gordon Duff quoted Michael Harris, a former Arizona Republican candidate for Governor of Arizona, who attributed the shooting to "Israeli death squads". Duff 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. Duff further claimed that "key members of the military and law enforcement community contacted Veterans Today in full support of Harris’ analysis."[21][22]

Writing in The Washington Post, Max Fisher, noting that Harris has publicly associated with Neo-Nazi groups and has previously claimed that Israel was responsible for the 2011 Norway attacks, described Harris' claims as being filled with "obvious logical fallacies" and that his article reflected "the obvious bankruptcy of Iranian propaganda."[23]

During a debate broadcast by Press TV, Holocaust denier James H. Fetzer said on the same program that the massacre "appears to have been a psy op intended to strike fear in the hearts of Americans" that was conducted by "agents of Israel."[7]

Several other conspiracy theories have suggested Israeli or Jewish involvement. These theories do not generally hold significant credence due to containing elements of anti-semitism.[6][7]

Additional conspirators

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]

There is no credible evidence that any additional shooters were present at the event.[10] Some such reports may have been influenced by confused early news reports of the events.[6]

Relationship to LIBOR scandal

Other conspiracy theories have focused on the claim that Adam Lanza's father was an executive with GE Energy Financial Services.[6][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 convicted perpetrator of the 2012 Aurora shooting.[6][28]

Timestamps of memorial sites

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.[11][12]

FBI statistics

Based on an inconsistency in Connecticut crime statistics pointed out on the Infowars website, in which the statistics "curiously appear to show that no murders occurred in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012," theorists have asserted that the FBI admits that no murders took place. However, the Sandy Hook murders are accounted for under "State Police Misc" rather than being attributed to Newtown, based on the Connecticut State Police being the primary investigating agency. The total of 146 statewide deaths includes the 26 deaths at Sandy Hook and Lanza's mother.[29]


James Tracy, a former professor at Florida Atlantic University who taught 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.[30][31] His allegations were strongly criticized by Patricia Llodra, a Newtown selectwoman.[32] Additionally, Florida Atlantic president Mary Jane Saunders issued a statement that Tracy's views were "not shared by" the university.[33] In response to his comments, the university opened an investigation of Tracy, who had tenure.[34]

In December 2015, after the family of Noah Pozner claimed that Tracy had harassed them, FAU moved to fire Tracy.[35] Chan Lowe of the Sun-Sentinel speculated that the comments were a publicity stunt by Tracy.[36] 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.[37][38] The university fired Tracy on January 5, 2016, citing his refusal to file required paperwork related to outside employment for several years.[39]

While Tracy has since withdrawn some of his suggestions, conceding that real deaths occurred in the shooting,[40] other sources have continued to claim that the entire event was a hoax.[41][42] A video similarly questioning official accounts of the shooting received several million views on YouTube within a week of its posting,[43] 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."[44] Joe Jones is offering $25,000 for irrefutable proof that Sandy Hook event was real.[45]

In May 2014, 28-year-old Andrew David Truelove stole a memorial sign from playgrounds dedicated to victims Grace McDonnell and Chase Kowalski.[46] 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".[47] He was eventually arrested on May 30, where the signs were found in his home.[48]

On September 12, 2014, during a political debate, Colorado Republican Party candidate Tom Ready was accused by his opponent, Sal Pace, of posting an article on his Facebook page claiming the Sandy Hook shootings "never happened". In response, Tom Ready remarked, "Well, there is some question of whether it happened, Sal." This was followed by more statements of the same manner, prompting outraged yells from the audience. After allegedly receiving a death threat the next day, Ready reportedly apologized for his remarks.[49][50] Other conspiracy theorists have tried to connect the shooting to references in popular culture. These include the fact that The 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 The Dark Knight Rises. This is what some conspiracy theorists refer to as predictive programming.[51]

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.[52][53]


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.[9][52] The conspiracy theories have also been called evidence of "the need for a national debate on mental illness."[53]

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.[54]

Lenny Pozner, the father of Sandy Hook victim Noah Pozner, founded an organization called HONR, which takes legal action against harassers of Sandy Hook survivors and families.[55]

Harassment by conspiracy theorists

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,[56] among other things.[57] Some journalists have cited such incidents as part of a "Sandy Hook Truther Movement" analogous to the 9/11 Truth movement.[41][58][43] A writer for the Calgary Herald reported that the movement self-identifies as "Operation Terror."[53]

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.[59] Parker has been attacked by theorists who believe he is a "crisis actor" and was "getting into character" before going on CNN to grieve over the loss of his child.[59]

In April 2016, Matthew Mills, a 32-year old man from Brooklyn, accepted a plea agreement with prosecutors on one count of interfering with police arising from an incident in November 2015, when Mills angrily approached the sister of murdered teacher Victoria Sotowho is regarded as a heroine for her attempt to protect her students from the shooter in the Sandy Hook attackshoved a photograph in her face, "and began angrily charging that not only did the Sandy Hook tragedy not take place, but that Victoria Soto never existed."[60] Mills maintains that these allegations are 100% false.[61][60] Mills entered an Alford plea and was given a suspended sentence of one year in jail and two years' probation.[60]

See also


  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. Michael Virtanen (2012-11-26). "N.Y. State Lawmakers Pass First U.S. Gun Control Bill Since Sandy Hook". TIME. Retrieved 2013-01-17.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Bennett, Dashiell (18 December 2012). "Newtown Conspiracy Theories, Debunked". The Atlantic. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  7. 1 2 3 Moynihan, Michael C. (December 12, 2012). "Newtown Conspiracy Theories: Obama, Iran, and Other Culprits". The Daily Beast. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  8. 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.
  9. 1 2 Parry, Wynne (27 January 2012). "Contradictions Don't Deter Conspiracy Theorists". LiveScience. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  10. 1 2 3 "Sandy Hook Exposed". Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  11. 1 2 Stuart, Hunter (11 February 2013). "Sandy Hook Hoax Theories Explained: Why Newtown 'Truther' Arguments Don't Hold Up". Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  12. 1 2 Sieczkowski, Cavan (16 January 2013). "Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theory Video Debunked By Experts". Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  13. Vancouver Sun (2013-01-11). "Conspiracy theorists claim Sandy Hook tragedy is elaborate government hoax". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 2013-01-17.
  14. McCarson, Matt (14 December 2012). "Newtown Connecticut Elementary Shooting Is a Staged False Flag Against Gun Owners and Preppers". Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  15. "Sandy Hook conspiracy cult: Shootings a hoax staged to pass gun control laws". Retrieved 2013-01-17.
  16. Luke Hammill (January 16, 2013). "Sandy Hook conspiracy theories spread in wake of Newtown tragedy". Retrieved 2013-01-17.
  17. Ferguson, Christopher J. (15 December 2012). "Sandy Hook Shooting: Why Did Lanza Target a School?". Retrieved 2013-01-17.
  18. Celock, John (December 18, 2012). "Birther Queen Blames Obama For Sandy Hook Massacre". Huffington Post.
  20. Radford, Benjamin (January 16, 2013). "Why Sandy Hook Massacre Spawned Conspiracy Theories". Live Science. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  21. Duff, Gordon (18 December 2012). "Israeli death squads involved in Sandy Hook bloodbath: Intelligence analyst". Press TV. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  22. Press TV's Obscene Anti-Semitism by Steve Emerson, Newsmax Friday, 21 Dec 2012.
  23. Iran’s state-run news network blames ‘Israeli death squads’ for Sandy Hook shooting by Max Fisher, Washington Post, December 18, 2012.
  24. Seitz-Wald, Alex (14 January 2013). "Sandy Hook truther-reporter?". Salon. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  25. "Conspiracy theorists claim Sandy Hook tragedy is elaborate government hoax". The Vancouver Sun. 15 January 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  26. Freund, George (18 December 2012). "4th Shooter Discovered, Two Not One in Woods Behind Sandy Hook Element". Conspiracy Cafe. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  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. "Sandy Hook Hoaxers Misrepresent FBI Crime Stats". Newtown Post-Examiner. September 26, 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  30. Stanislava Gaydazhieva (Jan 16, 2013). "Sandy hook Samaritan faces internet harassment". New Europe Online. Retrieved 2013-01-17.
  31. Tracy, James (24 December 2012). "The Sandy Hook Massacre: Unanswered Questions and Missing Information". Memory Hole. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  32. "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.
  33. Miller, Joshua Rhett (9 January 2013). "Sandy Hook community leader rips Florida professor who doubted massacre". Fox News. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  34. 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.
  35. Svrluga, Susan (17 December 2015). "University moves to fire professor who says Sandy Hook massacre is a hoax — and allegedly harassed parents of victims". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  36. Lowe, Chan (11 January 2013). "FAU prof's Sandy Hook conspiracy theory". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  37. Tracy, James (12 January 2012). "Anderson Cooper's Anti-Conspiracy Tirade". Memory Hole. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  38. Poladian, Charles (12 January 2013). "Newtown Conspiracy Professor Thinks Anderson Cooper Is Out To Harm Him". International Business Times. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  39. Alvarez, Lizette (6 January 2016). "Florida Professor Who Cast Doubt on Mass Shootings Is Fired". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  40. 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.
  41. 1 2 Aravosis, John (15 January 2013). "Sandy Hook truthers claim the Newtown massacre never happened". Americablog. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  42. Fetzer, Jim (22 October 2015). NOBODY DIED AT SANDY HOOK: It was a FEMA Drill to Promote Gun Control. ISBN 9781518650840. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  43. 1 2 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.
  44. "The Sandy Hook Shooting - Fully Exposed". YouTube. 7 January 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  45. Jones, Joe. "$25,000.00 CASH REWARD for Irrefutable Proof that Sandy Hook was REAL". Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  46. "Sign Stolen from Playground Honoring Sandy Hook Victim". NBC Connecticut. May 9, 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  47. Chez Pazienza (May 22, 2014). "EXCLUSIVE: Sandy Hook Truther Comes Forward, Provides Photos Of Stolen Memorial Signs In His Living Room". The Daily Banter. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  48. Sasha Goldstein (May 30, 2014). "Sandy Hook 'truther' caught in Virginia with signs stolen from playgrounds built for Newtown victims: police". NY Daily News.
  49. John Tomasic (September 11, 2014). "GOP Pueblo candidate Tom Ready not sure Sandy Hook shootings happened". The Colorado Independent. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  50. Christl Leong (Sep 15, 2014). "Republican Candidate Thomas Ready Gets Death Threat After Calling Sandy Hook Massacre A Hoax". Chinatopix. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  51. Max Read (2012-12-17). "The Insane Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theories That Are Already Flooding Facebook and Twitter". Gawker. Retrieved 2014-05-31.
  52. 1 2 Radford, Benjamin (16 January 2013). "Why Sandy Hook Massacre Spawned Conspiracy Theories". LiveScience. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  53. 1 2 3 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.
  56. Seitz-Wald, Alex (15 January 2013). "This man helped save six children, is now getting harassed for it". Salon. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  57. 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.
  58. "Sandy Hook Hero Harassed by Burgeoning Truther Movement". Time. 16 January 2013. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  59. 1 2 "Sandy Hook Truthers Say Robbie Parker Video Is Evidence Of Hoax". The Inquisitr News. January 18, 2013. Retrieved 2014-05-31.
  60. 1 2 3 Daniel Tepfer, Sandy Hook 'truther' gets suspended sentence, Connecticut Post (April 18, 2016).
  61. Stepansky, Joseph; Dillon, Nancy (November 11, 2015). "Brooklyn man harassed family of slain Newtown teacher". New York Daily News.
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