Ray Epps could become Fox News network’s “next Dominion.”
Since the breach of the U.S. Capitol during the certification of the 2020 presidential election, scores of American citizens have remained detained, and a great number of convictions have been handed down. Seemingly untouched by the long arm of the law was Epps, a focal point of ousted ex-host Tucker Carlson’s coverage in the months that followed and what may be the center of another defamation suit against Fox News.
Writing for the Times Monday, Jeremy W. Peters and Alan Feuer noted how “in nearly 20 episodes” spanning “more than 18 months, Mr. Carlson insisted that the lack of charges against Mr. Epps could mean only one thing: that he was being protected because he was a secret government agent. There was ‘no rational explanation,’ Mr. Carlson told his audience, why this ‘mysterious figure’ who ‘helped stage-manage the insurrection’ had not been charged.”
“Now lawyers representing Mr. Epps and his wife are proceeding with plans to sue Fox News for defamation,” the newspaper explained. “‘We informed Fox in March that if they did not issue a formal on-air apology that we would pursue all available avenues to protect the Epps’ rights,’ said Michael Teter, a lawyer for Mr. Epps who sent the network a cease-and-desist letter asking for an on-air apology and a retraction. After Mr. Teter did not hear from Fox about his request, he began to prepare the suit. ‘That remains our intent.'”
Accusations of Epps being a federal agent or working as a plant on Jan. 6 had only increased after Carlson had obtained roughly 44,000 hours of Capitol surveillance footage from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) Weeks later, Fox News had settled a defamation suit from Dominion Voting Systems for more than $787 million and the primetime host had been pulled from the air.
— BizPac Review (@BIZPACReview) March 24, 2023
The known details of Epps, said to have abandoned his home in Arizona with his wife over death threats, included his presence passing Capitol Police barricades on Jan. 6 and a video of him encouraging a crowd to march on the Capitol the night before.
“Federal prosecutors have not charged Mr. Epps with a crime, focusing instead on the more than 1,000 other demonstrators who acted violently or were trespassing in the Capitol,” the Times stated. “The Justice Department’s sprawling investigation into the attack remains open, however, and Mr. Epps could still be indicted.”
Peters further stated during an appearance on MSNBC, “Well, we don’t know that Ray Epps isn’t charged; we have no visibility into the government’s investigations, and he very well could be charged. And so, it was the absence of a charge that led people to sort of run wild with these allegations that somehow this guy is responsible for the entirety of Jan. 6.”
Fox News further settled a suit from a one-time producer for Carlson, Abby Grossberg, for $12 million while a $2.7 billion defamation suit from Smartmatic akin to Dominion’s remained active.
The Times indicated that there remained “unresolved legal questions about whether Mr. Epps truly suffered reputational harm if the only people he presumably lost esteem with are those who think Jan. 6 was a righteous cause,” and further suggested that Carlson’s frequent use of “ambiguous and indirect language” remained a safeguard against Epps’ claims.
“Unlike Dominion, without Epps filing suit and getting broad discover,” former Dean of Roger Williams School of Law David A. Logan told the Times, “we can’t be sure that Tucker Carlson had any doubts about the veracity of the allegations. Or that similar doubts went up the corporate chain.”
Vermont Law School president Rodney Smolla added, “His challenge is to get a judge, if he files the suit, to say this was so inherently, bizarrely improbable that only a reckless person would put it into circulation.”
“No case is easy,” Smolla said, “but this one is certainly, in my view, viable.”
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