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Pro-Trump protester Ray Epps seeks retraction of conspiracy theory from Tucker Carlson

Epps' lawyer demanded the Fox News host issue a "formal on-air apology for the lies” spread about his client.
Ray Epps, center at U.S. Capitol
Ray Epps became a target of far-right allegations that claimed he was working with the federal government and sought to provoke violence during the Capitol attack, which he has repeatedly denied.Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images file

An Arizona man at the center of a right-wing conspiracy theory about the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack on Thursday called on Fox News host Tucker Carlson to publicly retract his “false and defamatory statements” alleging that he was secretly working with the federal government during the attack.

Ray Epps became a target of far-right allegations that claimed he was working with the federal government and sought to provoke violence during the Capitol attack.

In a letter to Carlson and Fox News general counsel Bernard Gugar, Michael Teter, a lawyer for Epps, said the Fox News host “persists with his assault on the truth” by pushing “fanciful notions” regarding Epps’ involvement in the Capitol attack that have “demonstrably (and already proven to be) false.”

Teter demanded that Carlson and Fox News publicly retract the claim that Epps was working for the federal government during the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and the claim that Epps “acted as an instigator or provocateur of the insurrection.”

“We expect that you will give the same airtime in retracting these falsehoods as you spent amplifying them,” Teter wrote. “Further, Mr. Carlson and Fox News must issue a formal on-air apology for the lies you have spread about Mr. Epps.”

Teter said that Epps and his wife have been “subjected to threats, intimidation and harassment, resulting in significant economic and emotional damages” as a result of Carlson and other Fox News hosts promoting the conspiracy theory.

Teter noted that Carlson and other Fox News officials are currently under scrutiny over Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the network. Dominion, which sued Fox in March 2021, accuses the network of defamation and alleges it boosted conspiracy theories it knew were false, including that Dominion equipment was used to rig the 2020 election for Joe Biden.

Arguments in the Dominion case were heard in hearings this week on dueling motions seeking pretrial rulings. A judge will soon decide how much of Dominion’s case heads to a jury next month.

“Recent revelations from the Dominion Voting lawsuit may help explain why Fox News has allowed the falsehoods about Mr. Epps to continue to spread, and be amplified, through its network,” Teter wrote. “But fear of losing viewers by telling them the truth is not a defense to defamation and false light.”

A spokesperson for Fox News did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

Epps was seen on video the night of Jan. 5, 2021 asking other people to “go into the Capitol” the next day before others began chanting “Fed, Fed, Fed” at him. In video from Jan. 6, Epps shouted to those nearby: “OK, folks, spread the word! As soon as the president is done speaking, we go to the Capitol. The Capitol is this direction,” PolitiFact reported.

The video gained significant attention among some prominent conservatives in Congress. In addition to being spread by Fox News, the Epps conspiracy theory was featured in right-wing outlets such as One America News and Carlson’s Jan. 6 documentary series “Patriot Purge.”

The House committee that investigated the Capitol attack in the last Congress dismissed the Epps conspiracy theory. The panel last year said Epps told committee members in an interview that he was not a federal agent. 

Epps also told the committee that the “crazy” conspiracy theories he is a target of have torn apart his life. He said that he received death threats, his business suffered, people have shown up at his house and his grandchildren were being “picked on at school” because of the allegations. 

“We had a tour bus come by our home and our business with all these whacked out people in it,” Epps said in an interview with the Jan. 6 committee. “There are good people out there that was in Washington. Those aren’t the people that’s coming by our house. This attracts — when they do this sort of thing, this attracts all the crazies out there.”