Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News hasn’t done Tucker Carlson any favors. Revelations from the case suggest Fox News promoted bogus election claims they knew to be false, but the details surrounding the prime-time host have been especially damaging, including a text message in which Carlson appeared to prioritize News Corp’s stock price over accuracy.
But as it turns out, Dominion Voting Systems isn’t alone in accusing the television personality of having made “defamatory” statements in the wake of the 2020 elections. NBC News reported:
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.
If you’re unfamiliar with the conservative bubble too many Republicans live inside of, Ray Epps’ name might not ring a bell. But for much of the right, he’s a key figure in Jan. 6 conspiracy theories.
As we discussed early last year, in some conservative circles, there’s a conspiracy theory that the FBI was somehow responsible, at least in part, for the attack on the Capitol, and a pro-Trump protester — Epps — was part of the scheme, working with federal law enforcement and helping direct the violence. The conspiracy theory has been considered, examined, and discredited.
A few too many Republicans peddled it anyway, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
Then-Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of Republicans who served on the Jan. 6 committee, took the conspiracy theory apart last year, concluding, “Sorry, crazies, it ain’t true.” Epps himself testified under oath to the House select panel, explaining that the unhinged conspiracy theories, pushed by his ostensible ideological allies, tore his life apart.
But it wasn’t just GOP members of Congress who fueled the fire. It was also Carlson who promoted the conspiracy theory on his program, over and over again, including earlier this month after he received exclusive access to Jan. 6 security camera footage from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Epps now expects the host to put things right. From NBC News’ report:
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.”
At this point, readers are probably thinking that the host will simply throw the request from Epps and his lawyer into the circular filing cabinet, and viewers will never hear Carlson express any contrition or regrets. As a Washington Post analysis noted yesterday, “One hallmark of Carlson’s program is that his false and misleading claims are almost never corrected or even acknowledged.”
So will Epps’ legitimate concerns fade away if the host ignores them? It’s not quite that simple. As a New York Times report added, “Letters seeking retractions and apologies are often sent when lawyers are preparing to file a defamation lawsuit.”
Watch this space.