Rolling Stone destroyed whatever was left of its journalistic credibility by running a libelous accusation of a horrible crime. Now the magazine is looking at a huge lawsuit from the young men who were defamed.
WaPo’s T. Rees Shapiro has done some really good work on this story, and he has the latest:
The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity chapter at the University of Virginia filed a $25 million lawsuit Monday against Rolling Stone magazine, which published an article in 2014 that alleged a freshman was gang raped at the house during a party.
The lawsuit focuses on a Rolling Stone article titled “A Rape on Campus,” which detailed a harrowing attack on a freshman named Jackie at the Phi Psi house on Sept. 28, 2012. The article, written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, described how Jackie was raped by seven men while two others watched in a second floor bedroom while a fraternity party raged downstairs. The article alleged that the attack was part of a hazing ritual at the long-time U-Va. fraternity.
It wasn’t part of any hazing ritual. It never even happened. It was an extraordinary claim from a troubled young woman, without the extraordinary evidence needed to back it up. Or, as it turned out, any evidence at all. Erdely and her editors ran with the story in spite of all the red flags that popped up along the way. They just knew that these frat bros were guilty. After all, they’re privileged white males, aren’t they?
Yes, of course rape exists, and it’s horrible. That doesn’t mean an accusation of rape serves as its own proof. The seriousness of the crime is all the more reason to make sure there’s evidence of the crime.
Somehow, we’ve forgotten that as a society. Somehow, asking if a crime really happened is painted as a denial that such crimes ever happen. It’s insane and it needs to stop.
As a Phi Psi alum myself, I hope these guys get every penny of that $25 million. I hope they send a message to any other would-be rape hoaxers out there: This is not a victimless crime, and you will not get away with accusing people of things they didn’t do.
Even if they’re the lowest of the low: white males.