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WND's Obsession With Ray Epps

WorldNetDaily desperately wants to believe that a protester at the Capitol riot was a secret government plant, despite the utter lack of credible evidence to prove it.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 7/3/2023

The Washington Post said this in early 2022 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 October 2021 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 an ongoing 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 November 2021 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.
  • An article a few days later 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 December 2021 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."

Another December 2021 article by Moore hyped the Epps conspiracy story moving its way up the right-wing media food chain:

One of the world's biggest online newspapers,, 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."

But 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. 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 January 2022 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 a few days later:

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 why it would not let go of the story.

A July 2022 article by Moore complained that the New York Times did what WND wouldn't by actually looking into Epps's story and cleared him of being some kind of secret government agent. Moore called in a fellow conspiracy theorist for backup:

Why did the New York Times run a story in defense of the one man who has been captured on video urging people to storm the Capitol on the day before the Jan. 6 riot and then directing the breach of the guarded perimeter while Donald Trump was still speaking one mile away?

That's what Revolver News reporter Darren Beattie wants to know. It was Beattie who brought attention to the mysterious Ray Epps last fall, presenting video and other evidence to support the theory that the Arizona man was among many federal government operatives acting as provocateurs on Jan. 6.

In an article Thursday for Revolver News, Beattie breaks down the Times "puff piece," which opens by describing Epps as "a man whose life has been ruined by a Jan. 6 conspiracy theory."

The Times says Epps "has suffered enormously in the past 10 months as right-wing media figures and Republican politicians have baselessly described him as a covert government agent who helped to instigate the attack on the Capitol last year."

But Beattie digs out the buried lede of the story by the "paper of record," which is titled "It's just been hell: Life as the victim of a Jan 6 conspiracy theory."

The Times refers to a text message Epps sent to his nephew describing how he "orchestrated movements of people" to the Capitol after Trump's speech.

Beattie, providing a video compilation (embedded below) of Epps "orchestrating movements," wonders what Epps said in that text and whether it at least hinted as his motive for driving all the way to Washington to direct people into the Capitol.

The Times apparently never asked Epps that foundational question.

And it apparently never occurred to Beattie or Moore that there is no there there, that the reference meant nothing sinister. Moore also didn't explain why anyone should believe Beattie, a conspiracy theorist who was told to resign from a federal commission after spouting bogus Capitol riot conspiracy theories.

Instead of fact-checking anything Beattie said about Epps, Moore quoted him uncritically claiming that the Times is "kicking off a massive damage control campaign to make any unsanctioned ideas about Epps too toxic and dangerous to print."

Moore found another less-than-trustworthy source to attack Epps for an Aug. 4 article:

A Jan. 6 defendant who faces decades in prison on charges related to the Capitol riot wants to know why the Arizona man he claims tried to recruit him to go inside the Capitol – and is seen in numerous videos doing the same – is not "on the stand to answer the tough questions."

"Why is Ray Epps not in jail for inciting the crowd or obstruction of Congress or seditious conspiracy?" writes Sean Michael McHugh, a California business owner and father of four, in a letter published by the Gateway Pundit.

"Where is equal application of the law?" McHugh asks. "Who was he there with? What were his motives and who does he work for? Why did he keep repeating that we need to go inside not only a day before January 6th but even after being met with police force outside the Capitol?"

McHugh faces decades in prison on federal charges, including assaulting a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon, obstruction of justice and physical violence on Capitol grounds. Officials with the U.S. Attorney's office released photos they said show McHugh shouting into a bullhorn during the riot. Court documents say he was caught on police body camera spraying officers with an unknown yellow chemical and that he pushed a metal sign into a line of officers while shouting at them.

He has been imprisoned for more than a year in what he describes as "very inhuman conditions" he believes are designed to "make me plead guilty under duress."

Yes, Moore thinks a violent thug like McHugh is a credible source -- and even then, he undersold McHugh's rap sheet (he also spent time in jail on a statutory rape conviction), and he also failed to explain how McHugh's violence is connected to Epps. Indeed, Moore seemed to walk that back a bit by admitting that McHugh said he only had "coincidental contact" with Epps and "people who appeared to be working in concert" with him. Again, it still doesn't make this criminal trustworthy.

Moore grumbled some more that folks weren't buying into the Epps conspiracy theory in a Sept. 25 article:

Reacting to a Republican resolution demanding the Justice Department turn over documents related to suspected federal informant Ray Epps, a member of the Jan. 6 committee insisted during a House hearing there was nothing to see.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., was being pressed by Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who noted that Epps was interviewed by the Jan. 6 committee and a transcript had been promised.

Raskin argued "none of the transcripts have been released,

"You guys are trying to make this poor schmuck who showed up to this protest into something a lot bigger than he is. OK?" Raskin said. "He's just trying to survive, and he's on your side. You don't have many voters left, and you might want to try to hang on to them without demonizing and vilifying your own people. That’'s the Donald Trump way – sell everybody else down the road – unless you can get a pardon."

Raskin concluded: "Now you guys are doing it to this poor Ray Epps. Leave that guy alone! Whoever he is."

Epps is the one man who has been captured on video urging people to storm the Capitol on the day before the Jan. 6 riot and then directing the breach of the guarded perimeter while Donald Trump was still speaking one mile away.

He was one of three men whose name mysteriously disappeared from the FBI's Capitol Violence Most Wanted list.

Moore then rehashed the claims from Beattie and McHugh without, again, bothering to explain why anyone should consider them to be trustworthy.

Conspiracy theorist Jack Cashill tried to further the Epps conspiracy in his Nov. 16 column:

"Understanding what it means if the facts and the evidence are there, and they decide not to prosecute – how do we then call ourselves a nation of laws?" Rep. Liz Cheney said of the Department of Justice on CNN in August.

Cheney was directing her fire at Donald Trump, and she wasn't through. "The question for us is, are we a nation of laws?" she continued. "Are we a country where no one is above the law?"

At a University of Chicago forum last week, student Daniel Schmidt asked Cheney a variety of that same question. From his perspective, the person who showed himself above the law on Jan. 6, 2021, was not Donald Trump.

That person was the one Jan. 6 protestor the left has been ordered to love. "Do you demand the prosecution of Ray Epps?" Schmidt asked. "He's an actual insurrectionist on tape. Do you demand his prosecution?"

After a lengthy recitation of Epps' purported offenses and bashing of Cheney for pointing out that the committee she was on can't order any prosecution, Cashill took us back into conspiracy theory territory:

Despite the millions who had seen it, Cheney carried on as though the video did not exist, trying desperately to memory-hole Epps before he was even a memory.

"As far as what I've seen Mr. Epps, there are conspiracies around the role he was playing that day." There probably was a conspiracy. "Conspiracy theorists" simply want to know how the conspiracy unfolded and who was behind it.

"People are pushing [Epps] was doing what he was doing," Cheney continued, "because the federal government was telling him to. That's not true. There's no evidence of that. And Justice Department and the committee have both said that clearly."

Lacking even a shred of self-awareness, Cheney tried to convince a knowing student of recent history that he should put the word of the DOJ and Cheney's kangaroo committee above logic and hard evidence to the contrary.

It was only fitting. As Orwell reminded us: "The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command."

Yes, speaker-elect, we have reached that point. Do something about it!

Cashill doesn't want Epps prosecuted, of course -- at least, not as a member of a violent mob. Like his fellow conspiracists, he believes that Epps was a deep-state plant and FBI informant who egged on his fellow protesters. But as others have noted, there are good reasons why Epps -- who, by the way, is very much a conservative, not an FBI plant -- has not been prosecuted: he did nothing beyond being unlawfully present on the Capitol grounds, and very few rioters have been prosecuted solely for presence on restricted grounds.

But Cashill doesn't care about facts -- he has a conspiracy theory to foment. Indeed, he whined: "Epps seemed so much an agent provocateur, in fact, that on one occasion the protestors in his vicinity chanted 'no, no, no' and 'fed, fed, fed' after he encouraged them to breach the Capitol."

Cashill has to ignore a whole lot of inconvenient facts to keep this conspiracy theory alive. That, of course, puts him in good standing as a WND columnist.

Editor Joseph Farah used his Jan. 9 column to channel Fox News' Tucker Carlson in rehashing numerous right-wing conspiracy theories about the Capitol riot, including Epps:

"Nor does anyone in authority want to talk about Ray Epps," says Carlson. "Ray Epps, of course, is the man who was caught on tape encouraging the crowd outside the Capitol, both on January 5 and 6, to commit felonies by rushing inside. Now, what's interesting is that the January 6 Committee, under public pressure, did in the end interview Ray Epps. Now, we don't have all of the committee's records about that interview. We should, but we don't. But some have been released, and what they tell is a remarkable story. In the testimony that we have, the committee coaches Ray Epps on how to answer questions about his involvement. 'I was in the front with a few others. I also orchestrated it. I helped get people there.'"

Let's hope when Republicans have a turn to ask questions shortly we might be able to get better answers.

Again, there no actual evidence to frame him as the FBI plant Farah wants him to be.

Epps worked into Carlson's firing

Unsurprisingly, WND was unhappy that Fox News fired Tucker Carlson, a fellow right-wing conspiracy theorist. A month before Carlson's firing, for instance, WND was eagerly touting cherry-picked footage from the Capitol riot given to Carlson to push the false narrative that the riot was peaceful.

In an April 24 article about his departure, Unruh gushed that "Always a leader in breaking the news, Carlson had interviewed President Trump multiple times and just finished airing a series of interviews with Elon Musk," conspiratorially adding that "multiple reports from left-wing media noted the departure comes just days after Fox reached a $700 million plus settlement with Dominion Voting Systems over the network's coverage of the 2020 election." That was followed by an article by Unruh citing right-wingers complaining about Carlson's firing and a reprint of an article by the Daily Caller (which Carlson co-founded) touting Carlson's presidential prospects.

But WND needed someone to blame for Carlson's firing, and it tried to find one in an old scapegoat: Ray Epps. As it so happened, the day before Carlson was fired, "60 Minutes" did a segment on Epps that recapped the right-wing conspiracy theories falsely smearing him and highlighting the threats that have targeted him as those conspiracy theories spread in the right-wing media bubble.

Farah spent his April 24 column ranting that Epps had called out Carlson for falsely targeting him, and even went so far as to call CBS interviewer Bill Whitaker a "hitman":

On Sunday night, "60 Minutes" whitewashed the shameless Jan. 6 provocateur Ray Epps. And Fox and Tucker Carlson coincidentally parted ways.

In case you missed "60 Minutes," it was surreal. The whole thing.


And who do they blame for the "confusion" surrounding Epps for the "Insurrection"?

Tucker Carlson. It took "60 Minutes" three years to try to explain this to the American people – and to try to blame Carlson for Ray Epps' insidious actions. Epps is portrayed as a tragic figure, even though he is always on the front lines of the Capitol, even the night before, encouraging protesters to go "inside the Capitol!"


Once again, he blamed it all on Tucker Carlson.

"He's obsessed with me," says Epps. "He's going to any means possible to destroy my life and our lives."

"Why?" Whitaker asks.

"To shift blame on somebody else," Epps suggests. "If you look at it, Fox News, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ted Cruz, Gaetz, they're all tellin' us before this thing that it was stolen. So you tell me, who has more impact on people, them or me?"

Instead of actually rebutting anything Epps said, Farah simply quoted from the interview.

Peter LaBarbera furthered the idea that Epps got Carlson fired in another April 24 article:

One day after the airing of a sympathetic CBS "60 Minutes" interview with controversial, videotaped, alleged Jan. 6 instigator Ray Epps — in which Epps played the victim and sought to shift blame for J6 violence to Tucker Carlson — the most popular host on Fox News was ousted by the network.

In the "60 Minutes" interview Sunday, Epps claimed Carlson is "obsessed with me," and said, "He's going to any means possible" to destroy his life to "shift blame [for J6] on somebody else."

LaBarbera complained that the "left-leaning" Los Angeles Times pointed out the right-wing conspiracy theory about Epps:

"Murdoch also was said to be concerned about Carlson’s coverage of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol," the Times reported. "The host has promoted the conspiracy theory that it was provoked by government agents, and Carlson has called Ray Epps — a Texas man who participated in the storming of the Capitol but did not enter the building — an FBI plant, without presenting any evidence."

That description by the left-leaning newspaper misses the salient point of why Epps and his non-arrest by the Justice Department have drawn so much attention on the right: he is shown so clearly on film doing more than other J6 attendees who were arrested and jailed for entering the Capitol.

Moreover, Gateway Pundit, which has been at the forefront of coverage on J6 issues, reported that Epps is wrong when he claimed (in congressional testimony) that he never violated the law on Jan 6. GP reports that while several J6 protesters were prosecuted for touching a large Trump sign that was thrown at police, Epps was not, although he also is allegedly shown on video touching the sign.

LaBarbera didn't give Gateway Pundit an ideological label, even though it's a far-right conspiracy rag that's currently being sued for spreading lies. He then repeated right-wingers manufacturing conspiracy theories about Epps' "60 Minutes" appearance:

Many conservatives saw the "60 Minutes" piece Sunday as only the latest effort by liberal elites to distract the public from the federal government's role in stoking the J6 "insurrection" narrative to disparage Trump supporters and undermine Trump's pursuit of another presidential term in 2024.

Conservative radio host Dan Bongino said "60 Minutes" was attempting to exonerate Epps to salvage the left's J6 narrative for the 2024 presidential election.


If the object of CBS' "60 Minutes" was to neutralize conservatives' suspicions of Ray Epps as some sort of federally aligned actor instigating criminal behavior on Jan. 6, their puff piece interview with him and his wife Sunday certainly did not achieve its objective.

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., tweeted Monday, along with video of Cruz's Senate interrogation of the FBI official: "Ray Epps is the only person I’ve seen on video January 5th and January 6th urging and directing people to go into the Capitol. In a text message on January 6th he bragged that he orchestrated it. Why do democrats and the media portray him as the victim? So bizarre."

Twitter conservative Greg Price tweeted: "There’s also another thing: Ray Epps has never been arrested by the FBI despite them throwing everyone who was near the Capitol in solitary confinement and him being the only person on tape on J6 telling people to go into the building."

It wasn't until the 15th paragraph of his article that LaBarbera got around to noting that Epps' lawyers had sent a cease-and-desist letter to Carlson and Fox News, which sent him into Carlson defense mode:

"Mr. Carlson and Fox News have repeatedly peddled claims about Mr. Epps that lack any foundation in fact," states the letter by attorney Michael Teter. "Mr. Carlson and Fox News guests and contributors have incorrectly called Mr. Epps a federal agent, accusing him of acting as a provocateur of the riots. Oddly, Mr. Carlson now also espouses the view that those rioters were akin to peaceful tourists. This leads to the obvious question: is Mr. Carlson now accusing Mr. Epps of provoking peaceful protests."

Carlson consistently said on his Fox broadcasts that violent J6 protesters deserve to be prosecuted. His coverage alluded to disparagingly in Teter's letter concerned J6 video coverage unearthed by Carlson's team in March that exposed overzealous DOJ prosecution of the supposed J6 "ringleader," Jacob Chansley. The infamous horned "QAnon Shaman" was shown being led around peacefully by Capitol Police on Jan. 6, a spectacle at odds with the left's "violent insurrection" narrative. Weeks later, Chansley was released 14 months early from his federal prison sentence, after his lawyer objected to the government hiding the exculpatory video.

Teter's letter also says Carlson's on-air statements about Epps "have always been nonsensical fantasies disproven by videos and accounts by those attending the January 6th events. Selective and creative editing cannot overcome facts."

Carlson's footage of Chansley was cherry-picked and ignored his behavior before his arrest, and even his own attorney said Chansley's release from prison had nothing whatsoever to do with the video.

Farah used his April 25 column to rant that Carlson's firing was "election interference" -- even though Carlson isn't running for anything -- and again cited the "60 Minutes" story on Epps, "the one man safe from the Liz Cheney's House Unselect Committee of Jan. 6," as a contributing factor: "One would have to be blind or a Democrat not to see the fix was in."

A May 4 article by LaBarbera tried to drag Epps into the trial of several members of the Proud Boys over their actions regarding the riot, repeating claims by far-right writer Julie Kelly referencing "multiple sightings in evidence of the still-uncharged Ray Epps."

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