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Monday, June 12, 2023
MRC Dabbles In Ray Epps Conspiracy Theories
Topic: Media Research Center

The Media Research Center has largely avoided getting into conspiracy theories about Capitol riot protester Ray Epps. The only example of it popping up there was an August 2022 post by Clay Waters complained that a New York Times reporter "remained closed-minded about the mysterious figure of Ray Epps and his role in the Capitol Hill riots, slamming accusations of Epps being a federal informant. Epps was captured on video encouraging people to go into the Capitol building the night before President Trump’s infamous speech." But when Epps did an interview with "60 Minutes" to note how he's had to go into hiding to avoid right-wing conspriacy theorists who wrongly believe that he's really an undercover FBI agent who provoked others to storm the Capitol with the intent of discrediting support for Trump, Tim Graham decided to get involved with an April 26 post manufacturing a "liberal media" conspiracy that's highlighting Epps' woes:

When we list the types of media bias, one of them has always been Bias by Story Selection. When 60 Minutes devoted a softball segment to January 6 rioter Ray Epps on Sunday, the question was why him? And why now? Why did the media obsess over January 6 for two years and never get to this?

The only previous utterance of "Ray Epps" on CBS News was Adam Kinzinger ripping Ted Cruz over conspiracy theories on the June 12, 2022 Face the Nation.

Tristan Justice at The Federalist explored this in an analysis headlined "Ray Epps 60 Minutes Interview Raises More Questions Than Answers." Justice noted "The network follows The New York Times in giving the Jan. 6 agitator a glossy profile, dismissing as “conspiracies” the allegations that Epps was in covert cooperation with federal law enforcement."

It wouldn't be the first time CBS picked up on a Times narrative.

Epps is on video agitating for people to enter the Capitol, on January 5 and 6, and he was never charged. But people were prosecuted for merely "parading" inside the Capitol and taking pictures. Anna Morgan-Lloyd, an Indiana grandmother of five, was the first person sentenced for "parading."

(Yes, that conspriacy-mongering Federalist writer really apparently does have the name "Tristan Justice.")

The answer to that is pretty easy: While he encouraged people to (peacefully) enter the Capitol, Epps himself didn't -- and he was cooperative with authorities, who have consistently denied Epps was a secret government agent. Graham also didn't mention that Morgan-Lloyd merely received probation, not a jail sentence (because she didn't take part in violence), and that she downplayed her actions at the riot in a post-sentencing appearance on Fox News despite expressing remorse during sentencing (she later claimed she got "played" by Fox News host Laura Ingraham).

Still, Graham was in conspiracy mode, crafting the narrative that others are crafting "narratives" around Epps:

“Ray Epps was never seen committing an act of violence that day or entering the Capitol,” CBS correspondent Bill Whitaker said. “Epps told us when he saw the violence, his fervor to enter the building became a desire to play peacemaker.” Pelosi-picked investigator Tom Joscelyn told Whitaker there is “still absolutely zero evidence that Ray Epps was a federal agent.” The narrative was mean Tucker Carlson's reporting on Epps ruined his life, and they had to sell their ranch and travel the country in an RV to avoid violent reprisals. 

Justice explained in a Senate Judiciary hearing last week, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) accused the Justice Department of pursuing charges against individuals who, “in some cases, were merely present on the Capitol grounds.” Epps not only escaped charges after his face appeared on the FBI’s most wanted list, but he received defense from both the FBI and the panel of House lawmakers who investigated the riot.

Surveillance tapes of the Capitol riot made public on Tucker Carlson Tonight contradicted Epps’ testimony before House lawmakers about his whereabouts on that terrible afternoon..

All Graham does here, though, is quote from the Federalist article quoting Carlson claiming that Epps remained "at the Capitol" -- which, of course, is not the same thing as being in the Capitol, an aggravating factor for many of those charged.

Graham failed to note that Epps is seeking an apology from Carlson for spreading lies about him, though we (and the MRC) should perhaps be grateful that he didn't go full WorldNetDaily and blame Epps for Fox News firing Carlson.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:55 PM EDT

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