Lawyer demands Fox apologize for Jan. 6 conspiracy theory
NEW YORK (AP) — The lawyer for a one-time supporter of former President Donald Trump who has been caught up in a Jan. 6 conspiracy theory demanded Thursday that Fox News and host Tucker Carlson retract and apologize for repeated “falsehoods” about the man’s supposed intentions.
The action taken on behalf of Raymond Epps specifically mentions a voting machine company’s pending $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox, an indication that people caught up in political conspiracy theories are fighting back.
The lawyer, Michael Teter, said he gave Fox formal notice of potential litigation. Fox News had no immediate comment.
Epps, a former Marine from Arizona, traveled to Washington, D.C., for Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, rally and was caught there on video twice, once urging demonstrators to go to the Capitol.
He was never arrested, leading some to theorize that he was a government agent conducting a “false flag” operation to whip up trouble that would be blamed on Trump supporters. There has been no evidence to suggest that was true, and Epps told the congressional committee investigating the attack that he has never worked at or been an informant for a government agency.
Yet the theory, first posed on a fringe conservative website, spread to the more influential Fox News and to Congress and was even mentioned by Trump himself.
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Epps told The New York Times last summer that he and his wife had to sell their business and home and leave for an undisclosed location because of threats.
“The crazies started coming out of the woodwork,” Epps testified to the congressional panel.
He has acknowledged being caught on video on Jan. 5, 2021, telling demonstrators to go to the Capitol the next day. He said he was trying to defuse a tense situation and meant that the demonstration should be peaceful. He testified that it was “something stupid” that he said and he regretted it.
Epps also was caught on video at the Capitol on Jan. 6, but said he did not enter the building. He has been mentioned on Carlson’s prime-time Fox News Channel show five times in 2023 alone, according to a search of transcripts found in Nexis.
On March 6, Carlson said: “What was Epps doing there? We can’t say, but we do know that he lied to investigators.”
Last July 13, on the day the Times story about Epps and his wife going into hiding was published, Carlson said he was “on camera repeatedly telling people to storm the Capitol. A lot of people who did that are still in jail, but Epps is not. But it’s a conspiracy theory?”
In his letter to Fox on Thursday, Teter demanded “that Mr. Carlson and Fox News retract the claim that Mr. Epps was working for the FBI or any other government entity when he attended the Jan. 6 events and the claim that Mr. Epps acted as an instigator or provocateur of the incident.”
He called on Carlson and Fox to issue a formal on-air apology “for the lies.”
Teter said revelations that have emerged through court papers in the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit may explain why Fox acted the way it has with his client.
Dominion has said Fox knowingly and maliciously spread lies that it was involved in voting irregularities that hurt Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Documents have revealed the suspicion that many at Fox had about those theories, but also internal concern about how the network might be losing pro-Trump viewers who believed the false claims that the election was stolen.
Fox has said that it was doing its job in reporting on newsworthy claims made by the then-president and his allies.
In Epps’ case, Teter wrote that “fear of losing viewers by telling them the truth is not a defense to defamation and false light, nor will it absolve you of liability related to claims for infliction of emotional distress.”
Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.