Man whom Fox News scapegoated in January 6th conspiracy theory sues network for defamation: report
A man who participated in the January 6th, 2021 insurrection at the United States Capitol and subsequently became the face of a Fox News conspiracy theory is suing the network for defamation, correspondents Alan Feuer and Jeremy W. Peters reported in The New York Times on Wednesday.
Ray Epps is "seeking an unspecified amount in damages" for the character assassination that he allegedly endured from fired Fox News host Tucker Carlson's "'fantastical story' that Mr. Epps was an undercover government agent who instigated the violence at the Capitol as a way to disparage then-President Trump and his supporters," Feuer and Peters wrote.
"Just as Fox had focused on voting machine companies when falsely claiming a rigged election, Fox knew it needed a scapegoat for January 6th," Epps' complaint states, according to Delaware Superior Court documents reviewed by the Times. Fox "settled on Ray Epps and began promoting the lie that Epps was a federal agent who incited the attack on the Capitol."
"After the unfounded accusations about Mr. Epps were aired on Mr. Carlson's show," Feuer and Peters explained, "they quickly spread to online communities of Trump supporters and to the political world as Republican members of 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."
Fox's false narrative "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," per the Times. "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 how he had been reduced 'into a character in a cartoonish conspiracy theory.'"
Epps' attorney, Michael Teter, noted that although his client "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."
Despite never being criminally charged for his role in the Capitol attack, the Times added, "Mr. Carlson and Fox settled on Mr. Epps as a 'villain' who could serve as a distraction from the network's own 'culpability for stoking the fire that led to the events of January 6th.' Mr. Carlson, it said, became 'fixated on Epps' and began the promoting the idea that Mr. Epps and the federal government were responsible for the Capitol riots."
Feuer's and Peters' full article continues at this link (subscription required).
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