Get PolitiFact in your inbox.

Rioters tried to break through a police barrier on Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP) Rioters tried to break through a police barrier on Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP)

Rioters tried to break through a police barrier on Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP)

Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone July 13, 2023

Fox News in April settled a defamation lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems for $787.5 million after the cable news giant was accused of broadcasting false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. 

Now, in a second salvo, the network faces another lawsuit related to its false election claims. 

Ray Epps filed a defamation lawsuit July 12 against Fox News. Epps was at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. He was drawn there, the lawsuit said, because of the network’s false election claims.

Epps has not been charged with a crime in connection with that day. After Jan. 6, the lawsuit says, the network knowingly spread falsehoods that Epps was a covert FBI agent who helped instigate the U.S. Capitol attack. Epps has testified under oath that he had no connections to the FBI or law enforcement.

One of Fox’s former high-profile hosts, Tucker Carlson — who was fired from the network in April — particularly focused on Epps, repeating his name in about two dozen episodes, the lawsuit says and The New York Times reported. The Times also said Carlson had been planning to run another segment on Epps the day his show was canceled. The lawsuit singles out Carlson.

After Jan. 6, supporters of former President Donald Trump sought to deflect blame for the riot, pushing false narratives that antifa was responsible or the people marching on the Capitol were merely tourists. But in June 2021, a new conspiracy theory emerged: that the events had been organized by the FBI. The claim was pushed by Revolver, a right-leaning website, and amplified by Carlson.

An October 2021 Revolver article called Epps a "fed-protected provocateur" who led the attack. Shortly after it was published, Carlson had Revolver’s founder on his show to discuss the story.

The supposed evidence cited against Epps was that he could be seen in videos encouraging people to enter the Capitol. Those pushing the narrative also said that Epps’ image had been on an FBI website seeking information about protestors but was later removed and that he was never charged. 

The lawsuit says the false claims about Epps found a home on Fox News, with Carlson and others spreading them on TV, online and in social media posts in a yearslong campaign. The falsehoods have "destroyed" the Epps’ lives, the lawsuit says, causing them to flee their Arizona home and walk away from their businesses.

Here are some of the fact-checks and stories we’ve written about Epps:

Fact-check: "Ray Epps confessed to Jan. 6 Committee he ‘orchestrated’ attack on Capitol"  

We rated this December 2022 claim Mostly False. Epps testified Jan. 21, 2022, before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, but he did not claim to have orchestrated the attack.

He told the committee that he walked to the Capitol and told others to do the same. He texted his nephew at one point and said, "I was in the front with a few others. I also orchestrated it." He explained to the committee that he used the word "orchestrated" out of pride, and he meant that he helped people get there. He didn’t know people were breaking into the building at the time. 

He testified that he tried to calm rioters and that the violence was an "embarrassment." 

"What they did took away from everything. Who’s going to listen to anybody when something like that’s going on?" he testified.

Fox’s Carlson made a similar false claim March 6, 2023, about Epps’ testimony in segments about Jan. 6 security camera footage.

Fact-check: "Freedom of Information Act requests show a dozen phone calls between the cell phone of Ray Epps and the office of Speaker Pelosi in the week before #January6th"

We rated this claim False, as both private citizens and members of Congress are exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests. A spokesperson for Nancy Pelosi said the claim was not true.

Story: How new Jan. 6 revelations on Ray Epps, others undercut Tucker Carlson’s FBI conspiracy theory

In January 2022, we first wrote about Epps’ testimony before the House select committee.

Epps testified under oath that he had no connections to the FBI or law enforcement, undercutting the conspiracy pushed by Carlson and others.

The House committee said in a Jan. 11, 2022, statement that it had interviewed Epps.  

"Epps informed us that he was not employed by, working with, or acting at the direction of any law enforcement agency on Jan 5th or 6th or at any other time, & that he has never been an informant for the FBI or any other law enforcement agency."

Story: There’s still no evidence that the FBI incited the Jan. 6 riot, despite stories claiming otherwise

In November 2021, we examined the Oct. 25, 2021, Revolver article that claimed Epps was an FBI agent. 

The Revolver article said that Epps’ comments, his association with Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, and that he wasn’t arrested proved that Epps is an FBI informant and that the federal government incited the riot. But the article relied largely on speculation and provided no conclusive evidence that Epps worked for the FBI.

CORRECTIONS: This story was updated July 17 to note that Ray Epps went to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. His wife was not there. It was updated again July 19 to correct the amount of Fox News' settlement.

RELATED: Find all of our Jan. 6, 2021, coverage here

RELATED: Tucker Carlson parts ways with Fox News. These are some of his most consequential falsehoods. 

RELATED: 7 false claims from Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s segments on Jan. 6 footage 

RELATED: Tucker Carlson’s conspiracy theory about FBI and Jan. 6 continues to be wrong 

Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Jeff Cercone

Here are our fact-checks about Ray Epps, who is suing Fox News for defamation over Jan. 6 claims