Wednesday’s congressional hearing on social media and election security was relatively sedate and on-topic, but outside the chamber, two deeply dislikable people were getting heated in front of the camera. Confronted by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Florida Senator Marco Rubio tried to keep his cool while insisting that he didn’t know who was standing in front of him.
Jones, the host of Infowars, was on Capitol Hill this morning, wandering in and out of the chamber where Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg were being questioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee. For the most part, Jones was just creeping everyone out. But his stated purpose for being there was to “face his accusers.” That is to say, he was there to whine about being kicked off of various social media platforms for violating their terms of service. He sort of got his chance when Rubio stopped to speak to reporters.
Surrounded by some very confused traditional reporters, Jones asked Rubio some question about conservative users being “shadowbanned” and kicked off of social media networks. Rubio tried to pivot to the dangers of censorship in China, but Jones just wouldn’t quit pushing for an answer and talking over the Republican lawmaker. Rubio stared at Jones as he ranted for a bit and called him “weird” when he got the chance.
That’s when things got heated. Other reporters tried to get a straight answer on whether Rubio believed there’s a bias against conservatives on social media and Alex Jones insisted that he’s proof that it exists. Rubio went into uncomfortable-smile mode and tried to say that he doesn’t know who Jones is—that seemed to get under Jones’ skin.
At that moment, security stepped forward and Rubio told Jones to stop touching him. As the two bickered, Jones asked if he’s going to get arrested. “You’re not going to get arrested, I can take care of myself,” Rubio replied. And the scope of this foolishness came into full relief. Jones started accusing Rubio of threatening him, called him a “little gangster thug,” and more uncomfortable laughter kicked in.
Wounded over still not being recognized, Jones proclaimed that “Infowars is bigger than ever,” and the two traded insults. Rubio called Jones a “clown” and Jones countered with saying Rubio is a “frat boy.”
The fact is, Jones got the most out of this exchange, seizing an opportunity to attack a man he’s accused of participating in all sorts of conspiracies. But it also showed the Infowars host being his usual hyperactive, childish self. His claim to be “bigger than ever” is demonstrably false. The New York Times reported yesterday that analysis of Infowars’ traffic shows he’s lost about half of his viewers since he was kicked off of practically every popular social network except Twitter. The man is clearly desperate, and when Rubio walked away Jones was left with nothing to do but shout into the void and freak out bystanders.