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Ray Epps, in the red Trump hat, center, gestures to others as people gather on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
A participant in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack has demanded that Fox News host Tucker Carlson apologize on the air for falsely claiming the man was a federal agent.
Ray Epps of Arizona became the target of a right-wing conspiracy theory suggesting he went to the Capitol protest as an FBI informant to provoke supporters of former President Donald Trump into violence. Epps, who has not been charged in connection with Jan. 6 because he never entered the Capitol building, maintains that he went to Washington, D.C., to support Trump.
That didn’t stop Carlson and others on the right from promoting the baseless claim that Epps was working with the government. Epps’ lawyer, Michael Teter, sent a cease-and-desist letter Thursday to Carlson and Fox News general counsel Bernard Gugar, demanding a “formal on-air apology for the lies” spread about his client.
“Mr. Carlson and Fox News guests and contributors have incorrectly called Mr. Epps a federal agent, accusing him of acting as a provocateur of the riots,” Teter said in the letter, which was provided to HuffPost. “Oddly, Mr. Carlson now also espouses the view that those rioters were akin to peaceful tourists. This leads to the obvious question: is Mr. Carlson now accusing Mr. Epps of provoking peaceful protests?”
Epps came to the attention of conspiracists after he was videotaped the night of Jan. 5, 2021, urging supporters to enter the Capitol the next day. Epps was also seen on video the day of the riot attempting to stop a Trump supporter from attacking police.
In a rare statement released last year by the House committee investigating the attack, members of the committee concluded that Epps had not worked with law enforcement.
“Mr. Epps informed us that he was not employed by, working with, or acting at the direction of any law enforcement agency on January 5th or 6th or at any other time, and that he has never been an informant for the FBI or any other law enforcement agency,” the committee said through a spokesperson.
Despite this, Carlson brought Epps up again in a segment earlier this month, still suggesting he was an FBI informant.
“What was Epps doing there?” Carlson asked in a March 6 segment of his show. “We can’t say, but we do know that he lied to investigators.”
Teter’s cease-and-desist letter comes on the heels of a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News. Dominion alleges that Fox News helped spread Trump’s election lies despite knowing the claims were false.
As part of the lawsuit, hundreds of pages of testimony and internal text messages from Fox personalities were released, showing that they pushed the lie even while knowing it had no basis in reality.
“Recent revelations from the Dominion Voting lawsuit make clear that Fox News has zero qualms about lying to its viewers,” Teter wrote in the letter. “The fictional story that Mr. Carlson and Fox News have told, and continue to tell, about Ray Epps is just one more example of this. It is time for Mr. Carlson and Fox News to stop the lies and to make amends.”
Teter’s letter requests that Carlson and Fox send written confirmation that they will “comply with these demands” by March 31, or they will risk a lawsuit.