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Fox News is sued over conspiracy theory promoted by Trump and other Republicans

Trump supporter Ray Epps is suing the network for promoting a conspiracy theory that he was an FBI plant at the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

By Oliver Willis - July 13, 2023
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Rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021
Rioters gather outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Fox News is being sued for defamation by Trump supporter Ray Epps for promoting a conspiracy theory connecting Epps to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Former President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress also promoted the same claims.

Epps, who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6, has been depicted by those promoting the conspiracy theory as an FBI informant or ally who helped to instigate the attack as part of a plot to smear the reputation of Trump supporters and conservatives.The FBI has denied the claim.

Epps was described by Fox News host Tucker Carlson (whom the network let go in April) as a central figure in the attack. Carlson also claimed that Epps “helped stage-manage the insurrection.” Fox had several times featured Darren Beattie, the owner of the conservative website Revolver News, who created and released selectively edited videos of Epps at the Capitol.

In his suit, Epps claims that he and his wife have been harassed by Trump supporters and have been the target of death threats. He also alleges that he was forced to sell his Arizona ranch, which he and his wife ran as a wedding venue, and that the allegations have caused him financial harm.

The conspiracy theory was also promoted by leading Republican Party figures.

“How about the one guy, ‘Go in, go in, get in there, everybody,’ Epps. ‘Get in there, go, go, go.’ Nothing happens to him. What happened with him? Nothing happens,” Trump said at a rally on Jan. 15, 2022, according to the Washington Post, alleging that many of the people present at the Capitol on the day of the attack were FBI informants.

Mother Jones reported that a few days earlier, at a Senate hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said, “No one’s explained why a person videoed urging people to go to the Capitol, a person whose conduct was so suspect the crowd believed he was a fed, would magically disappear from the list of the people the FBI was looking at.”

Cruz used the claims about Epps as the basis for a fundraising email in which he said, “We know the FBI has been misused in the past to target President Trump and our conservative movement and run interference for the Democrats.”

Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) have promoted the conspiracy theory about Epps, as have Thomas Massie (R-KY), Ronny Jackson (R-TX), and Troy Nehls (R-TX).

The allegations about Epps have been addressed by congressional committees and law enforcement.

During testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, according to the Guardian, FBI Director Christopher Wray was asked about the conspiracy theory by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN). Wray denied that Epps was affiliated with the FBI and added, “I will say that this notion that somehow the violence at the Capitol on January 6 was part of some operation orchestrated by FBI sources and agents is ludicrous and is a disservice to our brave, hardworking men and women.”

“The Committee has interviewed Epps. Epps informed us that he was not employed by, working with, or acting at the direction of any law enforcement agency on Jan 5th or 6th or at any other time, & that he has never been an informant for the FBI or any other law enforcement agency,” the account for the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol tweeted on Jan. 11, 2022.

In a fact check the same day, the Associated Press determined there was no evidence to support the claim that Epps was anything more than a disgruntled Trump supporter. The Washington Post’s fact checker column came to the same conclusion that the allegation lacked evidence.

Fox News has recently been the subject of lawsuits for repeating the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen. The network in April announced it had settled a $787 million defamation suit with Dominion Voting Systems over the issue and acknowledged that it had aired falsehoods about the company and the election.

Trump, who is the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, is still promoting that lie.

“I won in 2020, by a lot,” he told Fox News in a June 19 interview.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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