Fox News argued in court Wednesday that its hosts and guests were merely raising questions and “presented a puzzle to unravel” when they repeatedly suggested, falsely, that January 6 rioter Ray Epps was a government agent who orchestrated the attack.
The pushback came in a defamation suit that Epps filed against the right-wing network. He claims Fox figures, including ex-host Tucker Carlson, destroyed his reputation by repeatedly raising the baseless idea that he led a false-flag plot to hurt Donald Trump.
“Tucker Carlson (and/or his guests) described the known (and undisputed) facts” about Epps, Fox said in the filing. “Then they asked questions and speculated about answers.”
The Trump-friendly network further argued: “The format of the segments involved setting out facts and raising queries on those facts, which indicated that issues surrounding (Epps) presented a puzzle to unravel, not a matter on which there were definitive answers.”
These arguments lean into the notion that Fox’s hosts genuinely “asked questions” and “looked for answers” about Epps’ role in the January 6 insurrection. But this ignores the fact that a previous defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems demonstrated that several Fox hosts operated in bad faith, raising claims on-air that they didn’t actually believe.
Fox News is asking a Delaware federal judge to throw out the lawsuit.
The case is one of many pending defamation suits stemming from the 2020 election and Trump’s false claims that the results were rigged. Fox News paid $787 million to settle with Dominion earlier this year and is still facing a $2.7 billion lawsuit from Smartmatic, another voting technology company.