Ray Epps, a former US Marine who became the focus of right-wing conspiracy theories after the 2021 Capitol riot, has filed a defamation suit against Fox News for suggesting that he was an undercover agent who helped provoke the insurrection.
The lawsuit, filed in a Delaware court on Wednesday, accuses Fox News of telling a "fantastical story" suggesting that Epps was a federal agent to make him a "scapegoat" for the raid on Congress, the BBC reported.
Epps, a supporter for former President Donald Trump, was filmed encouraging people to enter the Capitol complex in January 2021, but he was not charged.
But body camera video from the time of the attack shows Epps asking law enforcement officers how he can assist them, with offers to help move rioters back from the police line.
The footage spread online in right-wing circles and fueled conspiracy theories that he secretly worked for the federal government, NBC News reported.
The defamation suit has sought punitive and compensatory damages to be determined at trial.
It also argued that former Fox News host Tucker Carlson launched a “years-long campaign” that spread falsehoods that “destroyed” the lives of Epps and his wife, who now reside in Utah but were living in Arizona at the time.
“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 Robyn live in a 350-square foot RV and face harassment and fear true harm," the lawsuit says.
"Fox must be held accountable."
According to the lawsuit, FBI investigators met Epps in March 2021 and removed his photo from its website of wanted suspects in July, NBC News reported.
"That should have been the end of the matter for Epps, but instead he was cast as a villain," the lawsuit says, adding that Carlson “fixated on Epps”, devoting “over two dozen segments" to him.
Neither Fox News or Tucker have commented on the lawsuit.