Fox News sued for defamation by man linked to conspiracy theories

Fox News sued for defamation by man linked to conspiracy theories

Ray Epps, the man at the center of a widespread conspiracy theory about the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, sued Fox News and its former host Tucker Carlson on Wednesday, accusing them of defamation for promoting a “fictitious story”. filed. Mr. Epps was a secret government agent who incited violence at the Capitol to humiliate then-President Trump and his supporters.

Complaint It was filed in Superior Court in Delaware, where Fox was recently awarded a $787.5 million judgment in a separate defamation case brought against the network by Dominion Voting Systems, which claimed the company misrepresented Mr Trump. Had helped rig the 2020 election against.

The complaint states, “Just as Fox focused on voting machine companies when falsely claiming the election was rigged, Fox knew it needed a scapegoat for Jan. 6.” “It settled on Ray Epps and began promoting the lie that Epps was a federal agent who instigated the attack on the Capitol.”

Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The suit is the latest legal complication for Fox News, which is fighting a lawsuit on several fronts related to its coverage of the 2020 election and Mr Trump’s false assertion that he was cheated out of victory. These include a $2.7 billion lawsuit from another voting technology company, Smartmatic, and two separate claims from shareholders of Fox Corporation. Another lawsuit from a former producer for Mr. Carlson, which Fox settled on June 30 for $12 million, alleged that he condoned and encouraged a toxic workplace.

Mr. Epps is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

After unsubstantiated allegations about Mr. Epps aired on Mr. Carlson’s show, they quickly spread through Trump supporters’ online communities and the political world as Republican members of Congress tried to link Mr. Epps to a fictional conspiracy theory that He was involved. In planning the attack of 6 January. They included Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Representative Thomas Massey of Kentucky, both of whom made Mr Epps – a two-time Trump voter – the focus of concern at the public hearing.

The publicity had devastating consequences for Mr. Epps and his wife, Robyn, who received numerous death threats and were forced to sell their five-acre ranch and wedding business in Arizona and move into a 350-square-foot mobile home located farther away. Had to be forced Trailer park in the mountains of Utah. Online retailers began selling T-shirts that read “Arrest Ray Epps.” The complaint states that some people even recorded songs about him and posted them on YouTube, describing how he had been “turned into a character in a cartoonish conspiracy theory.”

Mr. Epps was in the Marine Corps, but said under oath in his deposition before the committee on Jan. 6 that he had never worked for law enforcement or, through his attorney, worked with any government agencies, including the FBI, the CIA and the NSA. didn’t talk to Michael Teeter, Mr. Epps in March demanded that Fox and Mr. Carlson retract their stories about him and his alleged role in the Capitol riot and issue an on-air apology. Neither the network nor Mr. Carlson, whose prime-time show has been canceled, responded.

“Ray is taking the next step in asserting his rights by demanding accountability for Fox’s lies that have caused him and Robin so much harm.” Mr. Tater said in a statement on Wednesday.

The suit paints an image of Mr. Epps as a loyal Fox viewer who was duped by Fox’s coverage and convinced he needed to attend pro-Trump demonstrations on and around January 6th.

The complaint states, “When Fox told its viewers through its on-air personalities and guests that the 2020 election was stolen, Epps was listening.” “He believed in Fox. And when Epps continually heard that Trump supporters should voice their views on January 6th in Washington, D.C., Epps took it to heart.

Conspiracy theories about Mr. Epps survive largely because the Justice Department has never charged him for his actions on January 6 and the night before. Mr Epps can be seen in the video encouraging protesters to march with him and at one point enter the Capitol. However, at another point, he urges restraint when it becomes clear that the situation is turning violent. He also pushes past a police barricade in a restricted part of the Capitol grounds.

But the lawsuit says that in May, the Justice Department notified Mr. Epps that it planned to file criminal charges against him related to his role in the Capitol attack. Details about the charges are unknown, but the fact that they are being filed undermines the notion that Mr. Epps was being shielded because of his role as an alleged secret agent, the lawsuit says.

Attacks on Mr. Epps began in mid-2021, largely after a video surfaced online purportedly showing him the night before the Capitol attack leading a crowd on a Washington street to “peacefully” enter the Capitol. was encouraged. Some in the crowd chanted “Fed!” They start raising slogans. Irrigated! Irrigated!” at it, indicating that he was a government agent trying to incite Trump supporters to commit crimes.

On the day of the attack she was also seen whispering in a man’s ear moments before that man and other rioters overpowered police officers and breached the security perimeter. It’s hard to hear what Mr. Epps is saying in the video. But the promoters of conspiracy theories about him have used the moment to accuse him of commanding something.

Law enforcement immediately took note of Mr Epps’ suspicious behavior and put his picture on an online wanted list. Mr. Epps has said that he called the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center shortly after the alert was issued, and his phone records show that he spoke with agents there for about an hour.

In March 2021, Mr. Epps was formally interviewed by the FBI. By that summer, the Bureau had removed him from its list of wanted suspects.

“The matter should have ended there for the apps,” the complaint said.

Instead, the complaint claimed, Mr. Carlson and Fox cast Mr. Epps as a “villain” who wanted to distract from the network’s own work “guilty of fanning the fires that sparked the events of January 6”. Could have done It added that Mr. Carlson, “became focused on Epps” and began promoting the idea that Mr. Epps and the federal government were responsible for the Capitol riots.

The complaint describes how over the next several months, Mr. Carlson repeatedly referred to Mr. Epps on air, saying that he was the “central figure” in the Capitol attack and claimed that he “helped stage-manage the insurrection.” did.”

On several occasions, Mr. Carlson called on his show the owner of a right-wing website called Revolver News, Darren Beatty, who the complaint describes as “the main person running the false story that Epps was a federal agent who was a provocateur.” was employed as the author.” For inciting capital violence on 6th January.

The complaint states that Mr. Carlson continued to spread unfounded allegations about Mr. Epps outside of Fox. Recently in March, the host appeared on a podcast and told former Fox News personality Clayton Morris, “Ray Epps was clearly working for someone. He was not a pure civilian.”

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