(WSVN) - The term “fake news” has exploded into a national conversation about separating fact from fiction. But for one South Florida father, online lies and conspiracy theories are a very real reminder of his son’s murder, and he’s fighting back. 7’s Brian Entin has our special assignment report “Cruel Intentions.”
On Dec. 14, 2012, Lenny Pozner dropped his three kids off at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Only two survived the day.
Lenny Pozner: “The footprint of the shooter was right next to all three of my children.”
Noah was the youngest of 20 first-graders and six adults killed in the massacre.
Lenny Pozner: “He loved to tell jokes, he loved his family, he loved to laugh. He loved being a 6-year-old.”
Lenny moved to South Florida after his son’s death. We’re using old pictures of him.
He asked we not show his face today. That’s because in the years since the tragedy, he says he has been harassed, even threatened by people who believe that the horror at Sandy Hook never happened.
Voicemail from woman: “You’re going to die. You’re going to rot in hell. Death is coming to you real soon, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Lucy Richards was one of those who believed the mass shooting was a hoax — say federal prosecutors.
The Tampa woman was indicted in December, charged with sending Lenny death threats.
She has pleaded not guilty.
The voicemails Lenny says he received are disturbing.
Voicemail from woman: “Did you hide your imaginary son in an attic? Are you still [expletive] him? You [expletive] Jew bastard.”
Sandy Hook hoax videos have been viewed millions of times online.
The details vary, but some involve claims nobody really died or the shooting was staged by the government to impose stricter gun laws.
They say grieving family members like Lenny are paid actors.
Lenny Pozner: “‘You guys are fake,’ or ‘your child didn’t die,’ ‘we know the truth’, things like that. They consider me a villain. There’s no compassion.”
Lenny says at first, he mostly ignored the hate-filled comments. But eventually he started to fight back to preserve his son’s memory.
He published proof of Noah’s life and death online, including his birth certificate, kindergarten report card and death certificate. He even posted the medical examiner’s report with the heartbreaking account of Noah’s body “clothed in a red Batman sweatshirt.”
The evidence convinced some people of the truth, but not everyone.
Lenny says one person demanded he dig up his buried son.
Lenny Pozner: “He doesn’t wish to speak with you until you exhume Noah’s body and show the world that he really died.”
Dr. Joseph Uscinski, University of Miami: “In the minds of the conspiracy theorists, Lenny and the other parents are in on it. They’re part of the scam. So by going after them, they think that they’re chasing down the conspiracy and they are going to bring it to light.”
University of Miami Professor Joseph Uscinski says conspiracy theories have been around for centuries.
Dr. Joseph Uscinski: “They are lurking in the dark corners of the internet, and social media has a lot of them. But we shouldn’t confuse that with people believing them more.”
Impossible to know how many people actually believe them, but clearly, many are now interested.
Lenny Pozner: “It’s a virus of insanity that wants to spread. That’s all it wants to do.”
That’s why Lenny started the HONR Network to combat these hoax believers and remove misinformation spread online about Sandy Hook and other mass shootings like the one at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.
All in memory of a little boy taken too soon.
Lenny Pozner: “I have a mission as it relates to my son. His story needs to remain pure to what his story was, and it was a very short story.”
To learn more about the HONR Network, go to http://www.honr.com/.
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