by Julie Kelly
Over the past month, speculation has swirled around why Fox News honchos ousted the nation’s most popular cable news host just hours before he was set to begin his nightly monologue. Tucker Carlson reportedly was stunned by the news, which was announced in a terse statement released by the network on April 24: “FOX News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways. We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor.”
Subsequent reports suggested any number of reasons why Carlson was yanked off the air, including the company’s settlement with Dominion Voting Systems, a separate lawsuit filed by a one-time producer for “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” political differences with the sons of Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch, and his questioning of the war in Ukraine.
But the timing of his removal—less than 24 hours after “60 Minutes” aired a puff piece on Ray Epps, the infamous January 6 instigator frequently covered by Carlson’s show—fueled rumors that Fox News wanted to silence Carlson before he could respond to several accusations made in the interview.
Carlson is “obsessed with me,” Epps told reporter Bill Whitaker, who repeatedly used the term “conspiracy theory” to describe claims Epps’ acted as a federal agent during the Capitol protest. “He’s going to any means possible to destroy me.”
Now it appears Carlson was, in fact, prepared to address Epps’ interview in his April 24 monologue. Chadwick Moore, author of an upcoming biography on Carlson, revealed in a video message posted on Twitter on Monday that Carlson’s scheduled monologue that night “dealt with, among other things, investigations around January 6 and particularly Ray Epps, the only person captured on video inciting people to violence at the Capitol that day and allegedly an FBI informant who still has not been arrested or charged.”
Carlson quote-tweeted Moore’s video with a wide-eye emoji to confirm Moore’s report.
If true, Fox News executives join a long list of Ray Epps’ sympathizers both in the news media and in Congress. For example, former Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who was vice chairman of the January 6 select committee, publicly condemned “conspiracy theories about the role that [Epps] was playing that day.” Former Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), also formerly a member of the committee, routinely covered for Epps, even insisting Epps “broke no laws,” when he clearly did.
In the same “60 Minutes” interview that gave Epps the warm and fuzzy treatment, Tom Joscelyn, an investigator on the January 6 select committee, also came to Epps’ defense. Calling Epps a “pebble” in a “mountain range of evidence” about the breach of the Capitol, Joscelyn mocked the notion Epps acted on behalf of a government agency. The conspiracists, Joscelyn said, have to “come up with some connective tissue between Ray Epps and the FBI and they’ve got none.”
But Joscelyn didn’t explain why Epps has so far evaded criminal charges when others involved in similar or even lesser behavior have not. Not only does Epps remain uncharged, he also has not been called as a government witness even though he was a key figure at the first exterior breach point on the west side of the Capitol grounds and whispered in the ear of Ryan Samsel, the first Capitol protester to knock down metal racks near Peace Circle right before 1 p.m.
Several defendants who participated in that first breach face various conspiracy counts. But not Ray Epps.
Ironically, on the same day Carlson planned to once again raise questions about Epps’ suspicious involvement in the events of January 6, a prosecutor had to confront the Epps issue during closing arguments in the Proud Boys seditious conspiracy trial. (Proud Boys were at the breach point with Epps and Samsel that afternoon.)
Assistant U.S. Attorney Conor Mulroe told the jury on April 24 that any intimation Epps acted on behalf of the government was a “fantasy.” Epps made several cameo appearances throughout the nearly four-month trial in the Justice Department’s most important January 6 case to date, appearing in a video disclosed by the government in a last-minute dirty trick to smear Zachary Rehl, one of four men convicted of seditious conspiracy.
One defense attorney attempted to subpoena Epps to testify during the trial. “It is significant that the government appears to be protecting Epps,” attorney Roger Roots, representing Dominic Pezzola, wrote in a motion in March. “Epps has never been indicted or arrested for his activities on January 5 and 6. This is despite the fact that Epps is the only Jan. 6 demonstrator who publicly (multiple times, actually) urged protestors on video to enter the Capitol on Jan. 6. Epps played a direct role in instigating the first breach on the west side. Ray Epps is seen on video recordings all over the West plaza and grounds of the U.S. Capitol and often within a short distance from Dominic Pezzola on Jan. 6.”
But Judge Tim Kelly refused to compel Epps’ testimony in the trial. And now more than a year into January 6 jury trials, Epps, one of the most prolific Capitol protesters, has not taken the stand to answer questions from prosecutors and defense attorneys about his role in the events of January 6.
And now it appears that Fox News, which has a brick on nearly all January 6 reporting, also is running cover for Epps and, potentially, the government.
One can only hope Tucker gets to finally read that monologue soon.
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Julie Kelly is a political commentator and senior contributor to American Greatness. She is the author of January 6: How Democrats Used the Capitol Protest to Launch a War on Terror Against the Political Right and Disloyal Opposition: How the NeverTrump Right Tried―And Failed―To Take Down the President. Her past work can be found at The Federalist and National Review. She also has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, and Genetic Literacy Project. She is the co-host of the “Happy Hour Podcast with Julie and Liz.” She is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University and lives in suburban Chicago with her husband and two daughters.
Photo “January 6” by Tyler Merbler. CC BY 2.0.