The Washington Post said this about articles written for right-wing Revolver News by Darren Beattie -- whom, it pointed out, was "a former Trump speechwriter who had been fired because it was learned he had appeared at a conference with a white supremacist" -- pushing the conspiracy theory that Capitol rioter Ray Epps was actually a "provocateur" paid by federal agents to encourage Trump supporters to riot:
The articles are filled with innuendo, leaps of logic and suspicion to create an impression of a massive federal conspiracy at the heart of the Jan. 6 attack. Beattie suggests that Epps led a “breach team” that set a “booby trap” for unwitting Trump supporters. “If Ray Epps is a Fed, the ‘Insurrection’ becomes the ‘Fedsurrection’ in one fell swoop,” Beattie declared in the second article.
The Beattie articles were gobbled up in the pro-Trump echo chamber like cotton candy.
Chief among those gobblers, needless to say, was WorldNetDaily. Here's Art Moore touting Beattie's conspiracy in an Oct. 25 article:
Attorney General Merrick Garland refused to comment on video clips played for him during a House hearing last week by Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., showing a man the congressman suspected was an informant planted by the FBI to urge Trump supporters to breach the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Massie didn't mention the man's name, but he long has been identified as Ray Epps, a U.S. Marine veteran from Arizona.
Now, an extensive investigation by Revolver News has led to three major findings concerning Epps that counter the official narrative and provide more evidence of proactive federal involvement in U.S. Capitol riot.
Moore spent a lot of that article regurgitating Beattie's report, including a claim of "detailed analysis of the many videos of Epps and the breaches of the Capitol."Unmentioned by Moore is the fact that Massie knew Garland would not answer the question about Epps because it involves anongoing investigation, as the Post noted: "Every lawmaker knows this will be the answer they receive. So it’s catnip for those who want to suggest something nefarious is going on since they know that, under the rules of this Washington game, no matter what they allege, a Justice Department official is not going to contradict them as long as the investigation is not complete."
Moore and WND continued to push the Epps conspiracy theory:
- A Nov. 2 article promoting Fox News host Tucker Carlson's conspiracy-minded special on the riot noted that "On his Fox News show, Carlson has featured reporting on the mysterious Jan. 6 figure Ray Epps," rehashing again the Revolver News conspiracy.
- A Nov. 5 article featured a letter by GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz claiming that the FBI "begged the public for information regarding the identity of Suspect 16, Ray Epps, and even offered a cash reward," and hen the public provided the details, the FBI, "amid the biggest manhunt in American history … did nothing."
- An anonymously written Dec. 21 article rehashed another Revolver News report claiming "evidence, backed by videos and images, that there were others who worked in tandem with Epps, apparently to turn a peaceful rally into a riot."
A Dec. 28 article by Moore hyped the Epps conspiracy story moving its way up the media food chain:
One of the world's biggest online newspapers, DailyMail.com, tracked down the mysterious Arizona activist who remains unindicted in the Jan. 6 riot investigation despite being seen in numerous videos directing people to storm the Capitol building.
The Rupert Murdoch-owned British tabloid didn't advance the story, and it framed the evidence-backed suspicion that Ray Epps was an FBI provocateur tasked with inciting a riot as a "fringe theory" from "some right-wing corners."
ut the paper's decision to send paparazzi to Arizona to take telephoto snapshots of Epps at his Rocking R Farms ranch puts a spotlight on a story ignored by establishment media. The extensive investigative legwork has been done instead by the website Revolver News and its founder, former Trump speechwriter Darren Beattie.
DailyMail.com did get a quote from Epps: "Get off my property."
It's another indicator of WND's lack of journalistic standards that Moore introduced a blatantly false claim into his conspiracy theory. Rupert Murdoch does not own the Daily Mail; it's owned by a completely different company.
Bob Unruh rehashed the Epps conspiracy in a Jan. 5 article claiming that "the federal government at this point still is refusing to reveal what agents, informers or "assets" it had at the events, and what they were doing." The "event," of course, being the Capitol insurrection, which Unruh also dismissed as "mostly vandalism."
When Gaetz and fellow far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene used the anniversary of the riot to spin their own Epps-centered conspiracy theory, Unruh was there for that too:
Referring to the events about which the Democrats scheduled daylong memorials, Gaetz said, "It may very well have been a fedsurrection."
While the federal government repeatedly has declined to provide information about its informants, agents or spies that were on Capitol Hill that day last year, it is true that prosecutors have identified multiple "unindicted co-conspirators" who were alongside those who now are facing charges.
They apparently were doing the same things, but they are not being charged. Or even publicly identified.
And several investigative organizations have revealed that several of those on video while they were advocating for citizens to rush into the Capitol and take it over are not facing any accusations whatsoever.
Moore touted a repeat of the Massie trick in a Jan. 11 article:
In a Senate hearing Tuesday, the FBI's assistant executive director for the national security branch, Jill Sanborn, repeatedly said she could not answer whether or not a man seen on video urging people to go into the Capitol the eve of Jan. 6 and then directing the initial breach of barriers was an FBI informant.
Finally Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked Sanborn what he described as not a law enforcement question, but one of "public accountability."
Cruz began his questioning with: "How many FBI agents or confidential informants actively participated in the events of January 6th?"
Sanborn replied: "Sir, I'm sure you can appreciate that I can't go into the specifics of sources and methods."
The FBI official also said she could not answer whether or not any bureau agents or confidential informants committed or actively encouraged crimes of violence on Jan. 6.
Cruz then asked, "Who is Ray Epps?"
"I'm aware of the individual, sir. I don't have the specific background to him," Sanborn replied.
Of course, by this point Epps' story had been explained by federal officials: He's not a government plant, and he was never charged because he never entered the Capitol or assaulted law enforcement. But the truth interferes with Moore's and WND's ramshackle conspiracy theory.
The Post further explained what Moore and WND showed no interest in doing:
This conspiracy theory follows a familiar path. Self-proclaimed Internet sleuths, seeking to prove the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol was the work of federal agents, latch onto “clues.” Partisan players weave the clues into misleading narratives. Then Fox News hosts such as Tucker Carlson elevate these claims, over and over. That catches the attention of lawmakers eager to win favor with the Trump base. Idle speculation becomes embraced as established fact.
Few of these actors feel compelled to do the basics of journalism and ask questions to try to explain what appears to be a mystery. Epps’s attorney is remarkably easy to reach — he immediately picks up the phone. Experts on FBI procedure can be found as well.
And, that, in a nutshell, illustrates WND's shoddy approach to journalism and why nobody trusts it -- and it's going down the tubes.