Ray Epps traveled from Arizona to attend Trump’s January 6 rally to rile up the MAGAts. Epps helped direct the crowd to go from the rally to the Capital. Epps encouraged others to enter the Capital, but he did not enter it himself, nor did he commit any acts of violence.
To hear Ray Epps tell it, it’s Fox News’s fault that his life was ruined in at least two ways.
The first and most obvious is that the right-wing cable news channel repeatedly and energetically insisted over the course of months that Epps must somehow have been involved in triggering the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a function of his purported (and nonexistent) role as a government provocateur. This was mostly driven by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who mentioned him in at least 20 episodes of his prime-time show.
This attention, rooted in misconceptions if not willful dishonesty, made Epps a central focus of conspiracy theories about the riot. He shuttered his business, and he and his wife moved in order to avoid unwanted attention and threats.
But, again, it wasn’t just the unwarranted scrutiny from Fox News hosts and guests that led to this result. In a lawsuit Epps filed against Fox News on Wednesday, his attorneys blame Fox for his being at the Capitol in the first place.
This can’t be reassuring if you’re FOX. ⬇
After the unfounded accusations about Mr. Epps were aired on Mr. Carlson’s show, they quickly spread to online communities of Trump supporters and to the political world as Republicans in Congress tried to link Mr. Epps to a fictitious conspiracy theory that he was involved in planning the Jan. 6 attack. They included Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky, both of whom made Mr. Epps — a two-time Trump voter — a focus of concern at public hearings.
For more than 18 months, Mr. Carlson insisted that the lack of charges against Mr. Epps could mean only one thing: that he was being protected because he was a secret government agent. There was “no rational explanation,” Mr. Carlson told his audience, why this “mysterious figure” who “helped stage-manage the insurrection” had not been charged. NY TIMES
The publicity had damaging 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 parked at a remote trailer park in the mountains of Utah. Online retailers began selling T-shirts that said “Arrest Ray Epps.” Some people even recorded songs about him and posted them on YouTube, the complaint states, adding that he had been reduced “into a character in a cartoonish conspiracy theory.”
Mr. Epps was in the Marine Corps but said under oath in his deposition before the Jan. 6 committee that he had otherwise never worked for law enforcement or spoken with anyone at various government agencies, including the F.B.I., the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency. Through his lawyer, Michael Teter, Mr. Epps demanded in March that Fox and Mr. Carlson retract its stories about him and his purported role in the Capitol riot and issue an on-air apology. Neither the network nor Mr. Carlson, whose prime-time show has since been canceled, responded.
Ray Epps: The 60 Minutes Interview ⬇
Epps was not on the “most-wanted” list; his photo was on a list of people about whom the FBI was seeking information after the riot. When Epps saw himself on the list, by both his account and the government’s, he reached out to the FBI and spoke with investigators.
According to the lawsuit, FBI investigators met with Epps in March 2021 and removed his photo from its website of wanted suspects a few months later in July. “That should have been the end of the matter for Epps,” but instead he was cast as a “villain,” the lawsuit says. It goes on to say that Carlson “fixated on Epps,” devoting “over two dozen segments” to him.
FOX so far has settled with Dominion Voting for $787.5 million and $12 million to settle a lawsuit from a former senior producer for Carlson, Abby Grossberg.