Charlie from It's Always Sunny explains his conspiracy theory wall.

Three Years Later, a January 6 Conspiracy Theory Has Only Grown Stronger

This Saturday will mark the third anniversary of the January 6 Capitol riot, when thousands of Donald Trump supporters made a violent attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election. Three years and hundreds of convictions later, January 6 conspiracy theories have only grown stronger.

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According to a new poll from the Washington Post and the University of Maryland, a quarter of all Americans and more than a third of Republican voters think that the attack on the Capitol was “probably” or “definitely” organized and encouraged by the FBI.

The “January 6 was an inside job” conspiracy theory

To be clear, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support the idea that the FBI was responsible for the January 6 insurrection. In fact, even those who think the FBI was responsible know that. Only 11% of those surveyed say there’s “solid evidence” to back up their claims, while 13% say they’re going on their “suspicion only.”

It can’t help that prominent Republicans and rightwing media figures have continued pushing this baseless theory. Donald Trump and more than a dozen Republican lawmakers have spread the “fedsurrection” conspiracy theory. Tucker Carlson made a whole docuseries about it.

It was encouraging when GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy got booed during a debate for saying “Jan. 6 now does look like it was an inside job,” but maybe more of the audience agreed with him than we knew.

Ray Epps: A conspiracy strawman

If you’re wondering why Republican lawmakers and voters are so convinced of this FBI conspiracy, well, I don’t know if you’re going to get an answer that satisfies you—such is the nature of bonkers conspiracy theories.

But much of the argument pushing a fedsurrection narrative is based around one man from Arizona named Ray Epps. By all reasonable accounts, Epps is a two-time Trump voter who participated in the Washington D.C. demonstrations leading up to the Capitol attack.

According to the New York Times, “He was captured on camera urging a crowd to march with him and enter the Capitol. But at other points, he pleads for calm once it becomes clear the situation is turning violent. He can be seen moving past a line of Capitol Police at the barricades, but never actually goes inside the Capitol.”

As the Department of Justice pursued charges against more than a thousand riot participants, Epps was not one of them. People like Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene say they find suspicious. Tucker Carlson is especially obsessed with Epps, mentioning him on his Fox News show (before the network booted him) more than 20 times in 18 months. And that kind of repetition can stick with viewers, no matter how baseless the lie.

For the record, Epps was finally charged and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in September of 2023. He is currently awaiting sentencing. He’s also suing Fox News for defamation.

(featured image: FX)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.