A new statement from NBC Connecticut can be found at the bottom of this article.
Megyn Kelly defended her decision to feature "InfoWars" host Alex Jones on her NBC newsmagazine despite taking heat this week from families of Sandy Hook shooting victims saying it's her job to "shine a light" on newsmakers.
Critics argue that NBC's platform legitimizes the views of a man who, among other conspiracy theories, has suggested that the killing of 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 was a hoax. The network released a brief portion of the interview, which is scheduled to air on Sunday.
Kelly, who interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin on the June 4 premiere of "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly," said on Twitter that President Donald Trump has praised Jones and been on his show. Since many people don't know Jones and his views, Kelly noted the importance of explaining them.
NBC hasn't immediately commented on the criticism. But the executive producer of Kelly's show, Liz Cole, told CNN that Jones does not go unchallenged.
"Until you see the full program, in the full context, I wouldn't judge it too much," Cole said. "Judge it when you see it. Megyn does a strong interview. We're not just giving him a platform."
Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose 6-year-old daughter Ana Grace was killed at Sandy Hook, said she fears that giving Jones exposure would encourage Jones' followers who have harassed her and others.
"You can't just put him in a box and say he's just a character," Marquez-Greene said. "He's really hurting people."
A year ago, a New York City man who was a follower of Jones was sentenced to probation after approaching a sister of slain Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto during a charity road race and angrily claiming the shootings never took place. On Facebook, Soto's family said the "incessant need for ratings at the cost of the emotional well-being of our family is disgusting and disappointing."
Lenny Pozner, father to slain student Noah Pozner, wrote an op-ed in the Hartford Courant Wednesday detailing the threats and harrassment he has faced from hoaxers.
"The very fact that Jones has some semblance of influence over our president's thinking speaks to my position that we should challenge his warped and pernicious views out in the open public forum," Pozner said. "Let him have his 15 minutes under the bright lights. Maybe then people will see the monster that he truly is."
In an interview clip released by NBC, Kelly said to Jones, "When you say people faked their childrens' deaths, people get very angry."
When he tried to change the subject, Kelly said, "that's a dodge."
NBC News Chairman Andy Lack said the story will be edited with the sensitivity of its critics in mind.
"It's important to get it right," Lack said.
Reporters have interviewed controversial characters like Syrian President Bashar Assad and child molesters in the past without getting this kind of a reaction, Kelly said in an interview Tuesday.
"What I think we're doing is journalism," she said. "The bottom line is that while it's not always popular, it's important. I would submit to you that neither I nor NBC News has elevated Alex Jones in any way. He's been elevated by 5 or 6 million viewers or listeners, and by the president of the United States. As you know, journalists don't get the choice over who has power or influence in our country."
Sandy Hook Promise, an anti-gun violence group, said it had asked Kelly to step down as host of its Wednesday-night gala in Washington. The group cannot support Kelly or NBC's decision to give a platform to Jones and hopes NBC reconsiders its plan to broadcast the interview, said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director. Hockley, whose 6-year-old son Dylan was killed at Sandy Hook, founded the organization with Mark Barden, who lost his 7-year-old son Daniel.
Kelly said she understood and respected the decision, but was disappointed.
NBC's plans have cost it some advertisers for this week's edition of "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly." It was not immediately clear how many; only the financial firm JPMorgan Chase has been publicly identified.
"That comes with the territory," Lack said. "It's not unusual. We kind of know when we're doing controversial stories, that's going to happen. It doesn't stop us from doing controversial stories."
To some critics, NBC's timing makes the decision worse — airing on Father's Day an interview that has been publicly denounced by parents who lost young children at Sandy Hook. NBC said it was scheduled for competitive reasons, because Jones had been booked to appear on ABC's daytime show "The View" next week. A representative of "The View" said Jones had canceled his appearance there and he will not be rescheduled.
Lack noted that he had suggested approaching Jones for an interview to David Corvo, the NBC News executive who supervises the network's newsmagazines. He said there's nothing new about putting people on the air even if they're unpopular or have views that are deplorable to many.
"I've got tremendous understanding of why they're so upset, as they have every right to be," he said. "Of course we're looking at it. We're looking at the editorial process."
After his interview had been taped, Jones denounced it on "InfoWars" as "fake news, in my view."
He said he expected a "rigged" report because a day's worth of interviews will be boiled down to an 11-minute report. "They're scared of what we're covering," he said. "They're scared of what we're doing."
Jones also described Kelly as not feminine, cold and robotic.
"I felt zero attraction to Megyn Kelly," he said.
Jones went on to call for Kelly to "cancel the airing of our interview for misrepresenting my views on Sandy Hook."
Among Kelly's social media critics was Shannon Watts, the founder of the anti-gun violence group Moms Demand Action, who suggested that Kelly "turn your light off and let him back under the refrigerator."
NBC Connecticut wanted to share the following statement Wednesday on the upcoming Megyn Kelly interview:
"Whenever there is news regarding the Sandy Hook tragedy, the pain resurfaces for our community and our viewers. With the upcoming interview airing on Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly, WVIT NBC Connecticut will make sure to give voice to those most affected by the tragedy, and most impacted by the interview.
Additionally, anchor Kevin Nathan is in Washington, DC tonight to cover the Sandy Hook Promise Champions gala. As part of that reporting, we are talking to local parents and covering their commitment to change.
We will continue our coverage throughout the week, including a special report on our Sunday 11 p.m. newscast after Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly.
NBC Connecticut is committed to giving the Sandy Hook families a voice, today, tomorrow and in the future."