By Helen Coster, Tom Hals and Jack Queen
NEW YORK (Reuters) – An Arizona man filed a libel suit against Fox News on Wednesday, alleging the network spread a conspiracy theory that he played a key role in the violent storming of the Capitol American by supporters of former US President Donald Trump.
Ray Epps, who voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, claimed in his lawsuit that Fox knowingly and recklessly spread allegations that he was an undercover FBI agent who launched the January 6, 2021, attack as part of a a government plot to discredit Trump.
This years-long misinformation campaign, Epps claims in his lawsuit, “destroyed” the lives of Epps and his wife.
Epps was interviewed by the congressional select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, and the committee released a statement saying he was not an FBI agent, according to the lawsuit.
Fox did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit in Delaware state court comes as voting technology company Smartmatic sues Fox for defamation, and several months after the company settled defamation claims brought by Dominion Voting Systems for $787.5 million. dollars.
The company acknowledged that the court found some of Fox’s claims about Dominion to be false.
In June, Fox News parent company Fox Corp settled a $12 million lawsuit brought by former Fox News producer Abby Grossberg, who alleged gender discrimination and accused the network’s attorneys of pressuring her to make misleading statements in the Dominion case.
Epps seeks compensatory and punitive damages in amounts to be determined at trial.
Epps traveled to Washington for the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the Capitol storming, but he never entered the building and testified in his lawsuit that he tried to calm the crowd.
Epps claims that nearly a year after the attack, Fox host Tucker Carlson seized on a conspiracy theory that the FBI was responsible for the insurgency and that Epps was part of this effort. Carlson told viewers in January 2022 that Epps was a “central figure” in the attack and “helped organize the insurgency,” according to the lawsuit.
Fox fired Carlson in April.
Epps is suing the network for defamation and false illumination, alleging that statements about him on Fox “would lead the public to believe that Epps was a federal agent working to provoke or incite others to attack the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.”
(Reporting by Helen Coster and Jack Queen in New York, and Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Jamie Freed)