CBS News became the latest legacy outlet to come to Ray Epps’ defense Sunday night with an interview on the network’s flagship program “60 Minutes.” 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.
On the eve of the Jan. 6, 2021 riot, Epps is captured on video demanding protesters “go into the Capitol” as Congress certified the 2020 election. Protesters responded by shouting Epps down as a “fed.” Since then, his apparently preferential treatment by law enforcement has contributed to speculation that Epps was an FBI informant who sought to provoke turmoil at the Capitol. While Epps ran to CBS to dispute any connection with the FBI, the interview raised more questions than answers.
“I said some stupid things,” Epps told CBS’s Bill Whitaker after he was shown footage from the night before the riot. “My thought process: we surround the Capitol, we get all the people there… It was my duty as an American to peacefully protest along with anybody else that wanted to.”
More footage shows Epps corralling demonstrators at the Capitol on Jan. 6, including a moment in which barriers were breached by an agitated rioter immediately after Epps whispered in his ear. Epps claimed on “60 Minutes” he was trying to calm him down and redirect the aggression away from police.
“What did you say to him?” Whitaker asked Epps.
“‘We’re not here for that,'” Epps responded. “‘The police aren’t the enemy,’ something like that.”
Whitaker also asked Epps about a text message to a nephew following the riot.
“I was in front with a few others,” Epps had written. “I also orchestrated it.”
“Explain this to me,” Whitaker asked.
Epps’ response hardly put to rest the so-called “conspiracy theories” about his possible role as an undercover provocateur. Epps claimed the text message was merely “boasting to my nephew.”
“I helped get people there, I was directing people to the Capitol that morning,” Epps said.
His evident effort to encourage rioters to storm the Capitol building makes the partisan Jan. 6 Committee’s defense of him even more suspicious. In January last year, the committee dismissed allegations of Epps’ behind-the-scenes cooperation with law enforcement preceding the riot. The committee appeared to be simply taking his word at face value.
“The Select Committee is aware of unsupported claims that Ray Epps was an FBI informant based on the fact that he was on the FBI Wanted List and then was removed from that list without being charged,” the panel said in a statement. “Mr. Epps informed us that he was not employed by, working with, or acting at the direction of any law enforcement agency on January 5th or 6th or at any other time, and that he has never been an informant for the FBI or any other law enforcement agency.”
A former staffer on the House probe also told “60 Minutes” Sunday night there is “still absolutely zero evidence that Ray Epps was a federal agent.”
But why would the Jan. 6 Committee, which was ostensibly established to prosecute exactly the kind of behavior Epps displayed, come to his defense? Why would CBS News and The New York Times, both accomplices to the panel’s narrative of a “violent insurrection,” do the same?
“Ray Epps was never seen committing an act of violence that day or entering the Capitol,” Whitaker said. “Epps told us when he saw the violence, his fervor to enter the building became a desire to play peacemaker.”
In a Senate Judiciary Hearing last week, however, Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton 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.
“Ray Epps has never been an FBI source of an FBI employee,” the bureau told “60 Minutes” in a statement.
When Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz asked FBI Executive Assistant Director for National Security Jill Sanborn about Epps’ relationship with the bureau last year, however, Sanborn said “I cannot answer that question.”
CBS News’s legacy program also ignored blockbuster footage of the debacle aired on Fox News in March.
Surveillance tapes of the Capitol riot made public on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” contradicted Epps’ testimony before House lawmakers about his whereabouts as demonstrators swarmed the complex.
“Epps told the committee that he never entered the Capitol, and therefore never committed a crime,” Carlson said. “Text messages show that at 2:12 p.m., he boasted to his nephew that he had ‘orchestrated the protests at the Capitol.'”
Epps told lawmakers that when he sent the text messages to his nephew, he had already left the Capitol for his hotel.
“That is not true,” Carlson said. “The surveillance footage we found shows that in fact, Ray Epps remained at the Capitol for at least another half an hour.”
“What was Epps doing there? We can’t say,” Carlson added. “But we do know that he lied to investigators. The Jan. 6 Committee likely knew this too. Democrats had access to the same tape, yet they defended Ray Epps.”
Despite noting that Carlson has discussed Epps “more than 20 times on his top-rated show” including a “half dozen times so far this year,” Whitaker dismissed the prime-time cable news host as a conspiracy theorist without addressing the Jan. 6 tapes. The “60 Minutes” host failed to ask either Epps, or Thomas Joscelyn, an investigator for the Jan. 6 Committee, about the contradictory timeline.