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Street traffic passes the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., March 25, 2022 (Gabrielle Settles, PolitiFact) Street traffic passes the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., March 25, 2022 (Gabrielle Settles, PolitiFact)

Street traffic passes the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., March 25, 2022 (Gabrielle Settles, PolitiFact)

Gabrielle Settles
By Gabrielle Settles January 6, 2023

Ray Epps didn’t tell Congress he orchestrated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack. Here’s what he did say

If Your Time is short

  • During an interview with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, Ray Epps said he walked to the Capitol and told others to do the same.

  • Epps texted his nephew at 2:12 p.m. Jan. 6 and said, "I was in the front with a few others. I also orchestrated it." But when questioned about it in testimony to the select committee, Epps said he wrote this out of pride and that it was the wrong word choice in retrospect. He did not confess to Congress that he orchestrated the attack.  

  • Epps said when the scene became violent, he told people to remain peaceful. Epps did not go inside the Capitol, and he is not among more than 950 defendants charged with crimes related to Jan. 6.

Since Jan. 6, 2021, a man named Ray Epps has played a starring role in right-wing conspiracy theories about the origins of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Epps was a supporter of former President Donald Trump who told investigators he went to Washington, D.C., that day to protest the results of Trump’s failed bid for a second term.
There’s no evidence Epps was an FBI informant or undercover agent who instigated an insurrection, as some claimed. Yet a related conspiracy theory originating on the InfoWars website reasserts the notion that Epps was instrumental in provoking the day’s events.

"Ray Epps Confessed to Jan. 6 Committee He ‘Orchestrated’ Attack on Capitol," read the headline on the Dec. 30 InfoWars story. The website is run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

A screenshot of this InfoWars headline was shared on Instagram the same day in a profanity-laced video in which a man decried it as "news that the mainstream media just won’t f------ cover." 

The video was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Instagram and Facebook.)

The claim is focused on year-old testimony Epps gave to members of the House select committee investigating Jan. 6. Does new information show Epps confessed to instigating the attack? No.

Text messages Epps exchanged with his nephew do show he used the word "orchestrated," but this claim ignores other statements by Epps and a significant body of evidence showing that while he went to Washington, D.C., that day to air his grievances about the election, he did not lead the violence.

Why was Epps singled out?

The InfoWars article called Epps an "undercover government operative," and claimed that transcripts of testimony he gave to the House select committee show he confessed that he "orchestrated" the riot. 

This is an extension of an already debunked claim that Epps was working for the FBI — one that hinged on videos from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, which show him encouraging people to enter the Capitol, including one clip in which the crowd responds with chants of "Fed! Fed! Fed!" 

A full transcript of Epps’ Jan. 21, 2022, interview, which was made public Dec. 29, shows Epps was questioned by U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.; Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla.; Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. The members interviewed him about a text message in which Epps used the word "orchestrated" — and Epps explained it did not mean he planned to incite the insurrection. 

Epps told the committee that he first declined his son’s invitation to go to D.C. that day, but later changed his mind and made it a father-son trip.

Once at the "stop the steal" rally, Epps decided to march to the Capitol grounds along with others, he told the committee. He thought the building would be open. Epps said during the interview that he told other people to go to the Capitol. 

The committee asked whether any law enforcement official told him to do this. Epps consistently replied that his presence that day was not as an informant or agent for the U.S. government or law enforcement — and that he had never worked for the government except for four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. 

At around 9 a.m. Jan. 6, Epps’ nephew texted him, saying, "You and Jim be safe," according to the committee.

Epps told the committee he marched ahead of others toward the Capitol and stopped in front of a barricade. 

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At 2:12 p.m. Epps texted his nephew back, writing, "I was in the front with a few others. I also orchestrated it." 

A committee member asked Epps, "Help us understand this text. What did you mean by ‘orchestrate’? What did you orchestrate?" 

"What I meant by ‘orchestrate,’ I helped people get there," Epps said. "At that point, I didn’t know that they were breaking into the Capitol. I didn’t (know) windows had been broken. I didn’t know anybody was in the Capitol."

He said he texted his nephew those words because he was proud. 

"I mean, I wasn’t proud of some people, but for the majority of the people there, they were pretty peace-loving people. I mean, they were like me. The atmosphere was good except for those people that were trying to take it in a different direction." 

A committee member later asked him: "So, you were proud of orchestrating the energy, the march to the Capitol, the expression of strongly held views about the election, but not the violent part, the part that made you turn away?"

"Yeah, exactly. I mean, it’s an embarrassment," Epps said. "What they did took away from everything. Who’s going to listen to anybody when something like that’s going on?" 

Epps told the committee that "orchestrating" was the wrong word, in retrospect. He told the committee that when things turned ugly, he no longer wanted to go inside the Capitol. Epps said he tried to help law enforcement officers and talk down rioters who were becoming violent.

"We made our point. We don’t need to escalate it any further. It needs to stop," Epps said he  told people. "I don’t know. It was a mess." 

Epps said he left the premises after helping carry someone who had a medical emergency away from the building. He did not go inside, he said.

In a Jan. 11, 2021, statement on Epps, the House committee investigating the Capitol attack said it knew 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 Committee has interviewed Epps. Epps informed us that he was not employed by, working with, or acting at the direction of any law enforcement agency on Jan 5th or 6th or at any other time, & that he has never been an informant for the FBI or any other law enforcement agency."

Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the committee, also addressed the supposed evidence in the case against Epps: the discovery that he had been listed on an early FBI "most wanted" list before later being removed, and that he has not been arrested.

Kinzinger tweeted last year that Epps was removed from the FBI’s list because "apparently he broke no laws" and didn’t enter the Capitol.

The Justice Department reports that more than 950 others have been arrested for their roles in the day’s events in the two years since.

Our ruling

An Instagram post said Epps confessed to orchestrating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

During an interview with the House committee investigating the attack, Epps said that he attended the rally, walked to the Capitol and recruited other people to join him. In a text message obtained by the congressional committee investigating Jan. 6, he used the word "orchestrate." But he later said he used that word to express pride about being there and believed in retrospect that it was the wrong word choice. He did not "confess" to having orchestrated the insurrection.

Epps’ use of the word "orchestrate" in a text message is a kernel of truth here, but overall this claim ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. There is no evidence Epps took a leading role in planning violence that day. Epps did not enter the Capitol and he is not among the more than 950 people who have been charged with crimes stemming from the day’s events.

We rate this Mostly False. 

Our Sources

PolitiFact, How new Jan. 6 revelations on Ray Epps, others undercut Tucker Carlson’s FBI conspiracy theory, Jan. 18, 2022

Texas Tribune, Connecticut jury orders Alex Jones to pay nearly $1 billion to Sandy Hook families, Oct.12, 2022

Instagram post, Dec. 30, 2022

PolitiFact, There’s still no evidence that the FBI incited the Jan. 6 riot, despite stories claiming otherwise, Nov. 17, 2021

InfoWars, Ray Epps Confessed To Jan. 6 Committee He ‘Orchestrated’ Attack On Capitol, Dec. 30, 2022

DocumentCloud, Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington D.C. Interview of Ray Epps, Jan. 21, 2022

January 6th Committee Twitter post, Jan. 11, 2022

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Twitter post, Jan. 11, 2022

United States Department of Justice, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Statement on the Second Anniversary of the January 6 Attack on the Capitol, Jan. 4, 2022

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More by Gabrielle Settles

Ray Epps didn’t tell Congress he orchestrated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack. Here’s what he did say

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