Ray Epps is a Trump voter who has voted twice. He claims that Tucker Carlson falsely referred to him as an undercover government agent responsible for the attacks of Jan. 6.
By and Jeremy W. Peters
Ray Epps is the man who has been at the heart of a conspiracy theory that the Capitol attack of Jan. 6, 2021 was the work of an undercover agent. He filed a suit on Wednesday, accusing Fox News, and former host Tucker Carlson, of defamation. They claimed to have promoted a "fantastical" story, which stated Mr. Epps had instigated violence at the Capitol, as a means of disparaging then-President Trump, and his supporters.
The complaint was filed at Superior Court in Delaware. In a separate case, Dominion Voting Systems brought a defamation suit against Fox to counter claims that it had helped rig the 2020 elections against Mr. Trump.
The complaint states that Fox needed a victim for the 6th of January, just as it had falsely claimed a rigged vote by focusing on voting machines companies. It settled on Ray Epps, and began to promote the lie that Epps is a federal agent responsible for the attack on Capitol.
Fox News didn't immediately respond to a comment when asked.
This is Fox News' latest legal challenge. The network has faced lawsuits in the past over its coverage of the 2020 elections and Donald Trump's false claim that he had been cheated out of his victory. The lawsuits include one for $2.7 billion from Smartmatic, a second voting-technology company, and two claims by Fox Corporation investors. Fox settled a lawsuit filed by a former producer of Mr. Carlson on June 30, for $12 million. The suit alleged that Carlson encouraged and condoned a toxic work environment.
Mr. Epps seeks an amount of damages that is not specified.
The unfounded allegations about Mr. Epps, which were broadcast on Mr. Carlson’s show, quickly spread through online communities and the political world. Republican members of Congress attempted to link Mr. Epps with a fictional conspiracy theory that claimed he had been involved in the planning of the attack of Jan. 6. The two were Senator Ted Cruz from Texas and Representative Thomas Massie from Kentucky. Both made Mr. Epps, a former Trump voter, a focal point of concern during public hearings.
Mr. Epps, his wife Robyn and their wedding business were forced to move from Arizona into a 350 square-foot mobile in a remote trailer in the Utah mountains after receiving numerous death threats. Online retailers started selling T-shirts with the words 'Arrest Ray Epps'. The complaint claims that some people recorded songs about him, and posted them to YouTube. It also states how he was reduced "into a cartoonish character in a conspiracy theory."
Mr. Epps served in the Marine Corps, but he said, under oath, in his deposition in front of the committee on Jan. 6, that he never worked in law enforcement, or spoken with anyone in various government agencies including the F.B.I. and C.I.A. N.S.A. Michael Teter was Mr. Epps' lawyer. He demanded that Fox and Mr. Carlson retract their stories about his role in the Capitol Riot and apologize on air. The network and Mr. Carlson's prime time show, which has been cancelled, did not respond.
Ray is now taking steps to defend his rights, by seeking accountability from Fox for the lies that caused so much damage to him and Robyn. In a Wednesday statement, Mr. Teter stated that he was taking the next steps to vindicate his rights by seeking accountability for Fox's lies which have caused him and Robyn so much harm.
The lawsuit paints Mr. Epps in a light of a Fox fan who was duped and convinced by Fox's coverage that he had to attend the pro Trump demonstrations around and on Jan. 6, 2017.
Epps listened when Fox's on-air personalities, guests and other sources told their audience that the 2020 elections had been stolen. He believed Fox. Epps was moved by the constant reminders that Trump supporters were to express their opinions on January 6th in Washington D.C.
In part, conspiracy theories about Mr. Epps persist because the Justice Department never brought charges against him for the actions he committed on Jan. 6, and the night before. On video, Mr. Epps is seen encouraging demonstrators at one point to join him in marching into the Capitol. At another time, however, Mr. Epps pleads to restraint when it is clear that the situation has become violent. He pushes through a police barrier into a restricted area of Capitol grounds.
The lawsuit claims that the Justice Department informed Mr. Epps in May of its intention to bring criminal charges against him for his involvement in the Capitol attack. The charges are not known, but their filing undermines any notion that Mr. Epps would be protected due to his role as an alleged covert agent.
The attacks against Mr. Epps started in mid-2021. This was largely because a video of him encouraging a crowd in Washington on a Washington street to 'peacefully enter the Capitol' the night before the attack surfaced on the internet. Fed!'
On the day of attack, he is seen whispering in a man's ears just moments before he and other rioters overpower police officers and breach security perimeter. In the video, it is hard to hear Mr. Epps. Promoters of conspiracy theories have used this moment to accuse Epps of issuing some sort of command.
The law enforcement agencies immediately noted Mr. Epps’s suspicious behavior, and placed his picture on an online wanted lists. Mr. Epps said that he had called the F.B.I. The National Threat Operations Center was notified shortly after the alert. His phone records indicate that he spoke with agents for almost an hour.
In March 2021 Mr. Epps underwent a formal interview by the F.B.I. The Bureau had taken him off the wanted list by the summer of that year.
The complaint stated that 'that should have been Epps' end to the matter.
The complaint claimed that Mr. Carlson, and Fox, chose to portray Mr. Epps in a negative light, so as to distract from their own "culpability" for the fires that led up to the events on January 6th. It claimed that Mr. Carlson became "fixated" on Epps, and started promoting the idea Mr. Epps, and the federal government, were responsible for Capitol riots.
The complaint outlines how, over the course of several months, Mr. Carlson repeatedly referred to Mr. Epps on air. He claimed that Mr. Epps was "the central figure" in the Capitol attack, and that he 'helped manage the insurrection'.
Darren Beattie is the owner of a website that promotes right-wing views called Revolver News. According to the complaint, Beattie was the person who pushed the false narrative that Epps had been planted by the federal government as a provocation to cause the Capitol violence to occur on January 6.
The complaint states that Mr. Carlson has continued to make unfounded allegations about Mr. Epps even outside of Fox. The host said on a podcast in March that 'Ray Epps was clearly working for someone. He wasn't a civilian.