It’s been nearly three months since Tucker Carlson’s tumultuous departure from Fox News, and the network is still cleaning up his mess. On Wednesday, Fox was slapped with another Carlson-related lawsuit—this time by Ray Epps, the Trump supporter who Carlson and other right-wing personalities repeatedly claimed was an undercover federal agent in the January 6 Capitol riot.
In their complaint filed with the Delaware Superior Court, Epps’s lawyers accuse Fox News of conjuring a “fantastical story”—one that portrayed their client as an agent provocateur who helped incite the insurrection on behalf of the FBI. They specifically mention commentary from Carlson, who they say waged a “years-long campaign” of lies that depicted Epps as a “villain” and “destroyed” his life.
“Fox and Mr. Carlson made Epps the central figure in a lie they concocted about January 6, 2021. After destroying Epps’s reputation and livelihood, Fox will move on to its next story, while Ray and [wife] Robyn live in a 350-square foot RV and face harassment and fear true harm,” the suit says. “Fox must be held accountable.” While Carlson remains under contract with the network, his prime-time show was canceled earlier this year, which led him to produce an independent program on Twitter. (Per The New York Times, one of Epps’s lawyers, Michael Teter, first issued a retraction and apology request when Carlson was still at the network; that request was ignored.)
The suit also makes reference to the network’s recent $787.5 million settlement in a defamation suit brought by Dominion Voting Systems. “Just as Fox had focused on voting machine companies when falsely claiming a rigged election, Fox knew it needed a scapegoat for January 6th,” reads the complaint, which was filed in the same Delaware court that heard the Dominion case.
Epps’s legal offensive could bear out another loss for Fox, in part because it throws cold water on an argument that Fox’s lawyers have routinely used to shake past defamation suits. As Bill Grueskin, the former academic dean of Columbia Journalism School, tweeted: “The company has long held Tucker Carlson [and other hosts] can’t be held liable for defamation because they’re just expressing opinions. But Epps’ lawyers cite Carlson saying, on TV, ‘I knew for a fact.’”
Fox News and Carlson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Right-wing conspiracy theories about Epps began floating around in mid-2021, shortly after a video clip emerged of him addressing fellow Trump supporters on the night before the attack, urging them to enter the Capitol building the following day. During the insurrection itself, Epps was recorded offering to help officers push the rioters back. He was also never charged for his participation in the protest, leading figures like Carlson to accuse Epps of secretly working for the government.
While Carlson’s theory was seemingly debunked in January of last year, with the Times reporting that Epps had set the record straight while speaking to House investigators in November 2021, it has nevertheless remained influential on the right—in both media and Congress. On Wednesday, Representative Troy Nehls, a Texas Republican, raised it during a hearing with FBI director Christopher Wray, asking him if he would be arresting Epps. (“I’m not going to engage here in a discussion about individual people who are or are not going to be prosecuted,” Wray answered.) “If you don’t arrest Mr. Epps, there’s a reason behind it,” Nehls told Wray. “I believe you know what it is, and it appears to me you are protecting this guy. I strongly recommend you get your house back in order.”