Ray Epps, the person on the heart of a widespread conspiracy concept concerning the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday accusing Fox Information and its former host Tucker Carlson of defamation for selling a “fantastical story” that Mr. Epps was an undercover authorities agent who instigated the violence on the Capitol as a solution to disparage then-President Trump and his supporters.
The grievance was filed in Superior Courtroom in Delaware, the place Fox was lately handed a $787.5 million judgment in a separate defamation case introduced in opposition to the community by Dominion Voting Techniques to fight claims that the corporate had helped to rig the 2020 election in opposition to Mr. Trump.
“Simply as Fox had centered on voting machine corporations when falsely claiming a rigged election, Fox knew it wanted a scapegoat for January sixth,” the grievance says. “It settled on Ray Epps and commenced selling the lie that Epps was a federal agent who incited the assault on the Capitol.”
Fox Information didn’t instantly reply when requested for remark. However the community moved rapidly to have the venue modified to Federal District Courtroom in Wilmington, Del.
The swimsuit is the newest authorized complication for Fox Information, which has been preventing lawsuits on a lot of fronts associated to its protection of the 2020 election and Mr. Trump’s false insistence that he was cheated of victory. They embody a $2.7 billion swimsuit from a second voting expertise firm, Smartmatic, and two separate claims by Fox Company shareholders. One other lawsuit from a former producer for Mr. Carlson, which Fox settled on June 30 for $12 million, alleged that he condoned and inspired a poisonous office.
Mr. Epps is in search of an unspecified quantity in damages.
After the unfounded accusations about Mr. Epps had been aired on Mr. Carlson’s present, they rapidly unfold to on-line communities of Trump supporters and to the political world as Republican members of Congress tried to hyperlink Mr. Epps to a fictitious conspiracy concept that he was concerned in planning the Jan. 6 assault. They included Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Consultant Thomas Massie of Kentucky, each of whom made Mr. Epps — a two-time Trump voter — a spotlight of concern at public hearings.
The publicity had damaging penalties for Mr. Epps and his spouse, Robyn, who obtained quite a few demise threats and had been compelled to promote their five-acre ranch and marriage ceremony enterprise in Arizona and transfer right into a 350-square-foot cellular dwelling parked at a distant trailer park within the mountains of Utah. On-line retailers started promoting T-shirts that stated “Arrest Ray Epps.” Some folks even recorded songs about him and posted them on YouTube, the grievance states, including how he had been decreased “into a personality in a cartoonish conspiracy concept.”
Mr. Epps was within the Marine Corps however stated underneath oath in his deposition earlier than the Jan. 6 committee that he had in any other case by no means labored for regulation enforcement or spoke with anybody at varied authorities businesses, together with the F.B.I., C.I.A. and N.S.A. By way of his lawyer, Michael Teter, Mr. Epps demanded in March that Fox and Mr. Carlson retract its tales about him and his purported position within the Capitol riot and concern an on-air apology. Neither the community nor Mr. Carlson, whose prime-time present has since been canceled, responded.
“Ray is taking the subsequent steps to vindicate his rights by in search of accountability for Fox’s lies which have triggered him and Robyn a lot hurt.” Mr. Teter stated in a press release on Wednesday.
The swimsuit paints an image of Mr. Epps as a loyal Fox viewer who was duped by Fox’s protection and satisfied that he wanted to attend the pro-Trump demonstrations on and round Jan. 6.
“When Fox, via its on-air personalities and friends, informed its viewers that the 2020 election had been stolen, Epps was listening,” the grievance says. “He believed Fox. And when Epps stored listening to that Trump supporters ought to let their views be recognized on Jan. 6 in Washington D.C., Epps took that to coronary heart.”
The conspiracy theories about Mr. Epps have lived on largely as a result of the Justice Division has by no means charged him for his actions on Jan. 6 and the night time earlier than. Mr. Epps could be seen on video encouraging demonstrators to march with him and enter the Capitol at one level. At one other level, nevertheless, he pleads for restraint as soon as it turns into clear the state of affairs is popping violent. He additionally pushes previous a police barricade right into a restricted a part of the Capitol grounds.
However in Might, the lawsuit says, the Justice Division notified Mr. Epps that it was planning to file felony prices in opposition to him associated to his position within the Capitol assault. Particulars concerning the prices stay unknown, however the truth that they’re being filed undermines the notion that Mr. Epps was being protected due to his position as a supposed covert agent, the swimsuit says.
The assaults on Mr. Epps started in mid-2021, largely after a video surfaced on-line displaying him on the night time earlier than the Capitol assault, encouraging a crowd on a road in Washington to hitch in “peacefully” getting into the Capitol. Some within the crowd start chanting “Fed! Fed! Fed!” at him, implying he was a authorities agent making an attempt to goad Trump supporters into committing a criminal offense.
He’s additionally seen on the day of the assault whispering into a person’s ear simply moments earlier than the person and different rioters overcome law enforcement officials and breach the safety perimeter. It’s tough to listen to what Mr. Epps says within the video. However promoters of the conspiracy theories about him have used that second to accuse him of uttering some sort of command.
Legislation enforcement instantly took be aware of Mr. Epps’s suspicious conduct and put an image of him on an internet needed listing. Mr. Epps has stated he referred to as the F.B.I.’s Nationwide Menace Operations Middle shortly after the alert went up, and his telephone data present he spoke to brokers there for almost an hour.
In March 2021, Mr. Epps was formally interviewed by the F.B.I. By that summer season, the bureau had eliminated him from the listing of needed suspects.
“That ought to have been the top of the matter for Epps,” the grievance stated.
As a substitute, the grievance claimed, Mr. Carlson and Fox settled on Mr. Epps as a “villain” who may function a distraction from the community’s personal “culpability for stoking the hearth that led to the occasions of January sixth.” Mr. Carlson, it stated, turned “fixated on Epps” and commenced the selling the concept that Mr. Epps and the federal authorities had been answerable for the Capitol riots.
The grievance spells out how over the subsequent a number of months, Mr. Carlson referred to Mr. Epps repeatedly on air, saying that he was “the central determine” within the Capitol assault and claiming that he had “helped stage-manage the riot.”
On a number of events, Mr. Carlson introduced on to his present Darren Beattie, the proprietor of a right-wing web site referred to as Revolver Information, whom the grievance describes as “the principal particular person driving the false story that Epps was a federal agent planted as a provocateur to set off the Capitol violence on January sixth.”
And Mr. Carlson continued to unfold unfounded accusations about Mr. Epps exterior of Fox, the grievance says. As lately as March, the host appeared on a podcast and informed the previous Fox Information character Clayton Morris, “Ray Epps clearly was working for any individual. He was not a pure civilian.”