The one-time Donald Trump supporter at the heart of a right-wing conspiracy theory about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is demanding a retraction and apology from Fox News and its most popular host.
Ray Epps, of Arizona, was seen in Washington on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 participating in various pro-Trump activities, including attending the so-called “Stop the Steal” rally that proceeded the march on the Capitol building. The fact that he has not been arrested in connection with the riot — and that he was removed from the FBI’s Most Wanted list after reaching out to federal investigators himself — has given rise to the theory that Epps was a federal plant, sent to rile up the pro-Trump crowd and lead them into a “false flag” operation.
Epps’ lawyer, Michael Teter, sent a letter addressed to Tucker Carlson and Fox News General Counsel Bernard Gugar on Thursday demanding that Carlson retract what he has said about Epps and formally apologize to the Arizona man.
The letter, written on behalf of Epps and his wife Robyn Epps, accused Carlson of essentially selling a fairy tale to viewers.
“The fanciful notions that Mr. Carlson advances on his show regarding Mr. Epps’s involvement in the January 6th insurrection are demonstrably (and already proven to be) false,” the letter said. “And yet, Mr. Carlson persists with his assault on the truth.”
Epps testified in January of 2022 before the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. Epps told lawmakers that at the time, he believed he had helped “orchestrate” the attack by encouraging pro-Trump protestors to head toward the Capitol, but that he never entered the building. He also said that he tried to talk people down from committing violence.
Teter told Fox that his clients have suffered greatly as a result of being targets of the conspiracy theory.
“The consequences of your lies cannot be minimized,” the letter says. “Mr. and Mrs. Epps have been subjected to threats, intimidation, and harassment, resulting in significant economic and emotional damages. Each time Mr. Carlson and Fox News spreads more misinformation about Mr. Epps, the harm redoubles.”
In the letter, Teter took a swing at the right-wing network over the multiple defamation lawsuits it is currently facing from voting machines companies Smartmatic and Dominion alleging a combined total of more than $4 billion in damages.
“I realize that you are becoming quite familiar with the elements of defamation,” Teter wrote, before launching into a “refresher” of the elements of defamation under Arizona law.
In an apparent reference to bombshell evidence showing that Fox News executives and hosts knew that Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election were baseless, Teter added that “recent revelations” from the Dominion lawsuit “may help explain why Fox News has allowed the falsehoods about Mr. Epps to continue to spread, and be amplified, through its network.”
“But fear of losing viewers by telling them the truth is not a defense to defamation and false light, nor will it absolve you of liability related to claims for infliction of emotional distress,” Teter added.
Teter also alleged that Fox News violated Arizona’s “false light” law by making a “major misrepresentation” of Epps’ “character, history, activities or beliefs.”
Epps had traveled to Washington ahead of Trump’s so-called “Stop the Steal” rally in order to show support for the now-former president, who had refused to accept his loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
“Tomorrow, we need to go in to the Capitol! Into the Capitol,” Epps appeared to say in a video allegedly taken on Jan. 5.
“Peacefully,” he added, after some in the crowd appeared not to agree.
Right-wing livestreamer and convicted Jan. 6 rioter Tim “Baked Alaska” Gionet then started leading the crowd in a chant of “Fed! Fed! Fed!” — an apparent suggestion that Epps was a federal government plant sent to essentially entrap the protestors.
On Jan. 6, Epps was seen on video yelling into a crowd: “OK, folks, spread the word! As soon as the president is done speaking, we go to the Capitol. The Capitol is this direction.” Epps was also seen talking to Proud Boys member and accused Capitol Police assailant Ryan Samsel, who was among the first to break through a police line on Capitol grounds.
Epps has not been arrested or charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach — a fact that, according to Tucker Carlson, indicates his complicity.
Epps was “on camera repeatedly telling people to storm the Capitol, Carlson said on his show in July of 2022. “A lot of people who did that are still in jail, but Epps is not. But it’s a conspiracy theory?”
Fox News did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for comment.
Teter gave Fox until March 31 to respond in writing that it will comply with the demands in the letter.
“If we do not receive that response, we will take all steps necessary to protect Mr. and Mrs. Epps’ rights,” the letter says.
Teter told Law&Crime that he has not received a response from Fox and is “not sure” that he will.
“We will decide next steps soon, but we are exploring all options,” Teter said.
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