Ray Epps sues Fox Information for defamation over Jan. 6 conspiracy theories

Fox Information, which just lately settled two high-profile authorized challenges for a mixed $800 million, is now dealing with a defamation and false mild lawsuit from a person who stated the community offered him as a “scapegoat” for the Jan. 6 revolt on the U.S. Capitol.

Ray Epps attended the pro-Trump rallies in Washington in January 2021 however was not among the many folks discovered to have breached the Capitol constructing and was by no means charged for his conduct. In subsequent weeks, then-Fox host Tucker Carlson highlighted a video clip of the Arizona man exterior the Capitol to counsel that Epps may need been a authorities informant — a notion that Epps and the FBI have strongly denied.

“Fox, and notably Mr. Carlson, commenced a years-long marketing campaign spreading falsehoods about Epps,” the lawsuit prices, claiming that Epps and his spouse, Robyn, have had their life “destroyed” by these false claims.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Delaware, claims that Fox — and Carlson — knew that Epps was not a federal agent however selected to ignore that data, subsequently arguing that the community acted with precise malice, the usual essential to win a defamation case in opposition to a public entity.

“Fox engaged in purposeful avoidance of the reality, deliberately ignoring info and proof that immediately contradicted Fox’s outlandish lies about Epps,” the grievance prices. “Fox refused to retract, right, or apologize for its demonstrably false and defamatory accusations in opposition to Epps nicely after Fox knew definitively that they have been false, offering but extra circumstantial proof of precise malice. Fox thus broadcast its lies about Epps with a excessive diploma of consciousness of possible falsity.”

In a March 23 letter, a lawyer for Epps, Michael Teter, demanded that Carlson and Fox Information retract their claims about Epps and put the community on discover of potential authorized motion. The lawyer set a March 31 deadline for a response to the letter however beforehand instructed The Washington Submit that he didn’t obtain one. “This lawsuit marks one other second of accountability for Fox Information,” Teter stated in an announcement.

Fox Information representatives didn’t return a request for touch upon the lawsuit.

Epps rose to consideration on the fitting due to movies shot on Jan. 5, the evening earlier than the riot, that confirmed him arguing with Anthime Gionet, a far-right livestreamer who goes by the alias “Baked Alaska.” Within the recording, Epps urged Trump supporters to enter the Capitol on Jan. 6. “We have to go into the Capitol!” Epps instructed Gionet.

In his lawsuit, Epps claims he believed components of the Capitol could be open to the general public, and that he supposed Trump supporters would enter the constructing lawfully. Epps protested exterior the Capitol on Jan. 6, however was not initially charged. His picture briefly appeared on an FBI web site in search of details about numerous protesters however was eliminated in July 2021 after he was interviewed by brokers.

The video of Epps, mixed with the actual fact he wasn’t prosecuted and his picture vanished from the FBI web site, turned fodder for right-wing conspiracy theorists, who claimed he was planted on the scene by federal brokers to impress in any other case peaceable protesters into committing violence, a notion that trickled into conservative media circles. Carlson started commonly questioning whether or not Epps was an informant or undercover determine on his broadcasts, describing him as somebody who “helped stage-manage the revolt” in a single Jan. 2022 broadcast.

In a January 2023 broadcast, Carlson reminded his viewers that Epps had not but been charged. “Why is that? Effectively, let’s simply cease mendacity,” Carlson instructed his viewers. “At this level, it’s fairly apparent why that’s.”

In a July 2022 phase of Carlson’s present, considered one of his friends, conservative commentator and former Trump White Home speechwriter Darren Beattie, referred to as Epps “the smoking gun of the complete fed-surrection,” a suggestion that Carlson didn’t rebut.

Different Fox hosts additionally raised the subject. Throughout an October 2021 phase of Laura Ingraham’s present, an on-screen graphic requested “Had been Federal Property Concerned in Capitol Riot?” whereas the host talked about Epps’ position.

The Epps conspiracy principle was additionally embraced by some Republican members of Congress. “I feel any person that labored that arduous to get folks to go within the Capitol, why aren’t they rotting away within the D.C. jail?” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) stated in a June 2022 livestream.

After Carlson’s segments, Epps and his spouse have been deluged with harassing threats and messages, in response to the lawsuit. The conspiracy theories fanned by Carlson compelled them to flee their Arizona ranch and the wedding-venue enterprise they operated on the property, promoting the property at a fire-sale worth, in response to the lawsuit.

“It’d be a rattling disgrace to see that place go up in flames,” a caller on one of many harassing voicemails acknowledged, in response to the lawsuit.

Now Epps and his spouse stay in an RV a tenth the scale of the Arizona ranch home they deserted due to the threats, in response to the lawsuit.

“After destroying Epps’s popularity and livelihood, Fox will transfer on to its subsequent story, whereas Ray and Robyn stay in a 350-square foot RV and face harassment and concern true hurt,” the lawsuit reads.

The Epps case presents one other main authorized headache for Fox, which in late April paid $787.5 million to settle a defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Techniques over the community’s protection of the 2020 election. And in late June, the community paid $12 million to settle a office discrimination lawsuit filed by a former producer, Abby Grossberg. The community can also be nonetheless dealing with a defamation lawsuit filed by voting expertise firm Smartmatic, which is predicted to go to trial in 2025.

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