Media furious with Rolling Stone's mishandling of UVA rape story
Rolling Stone's abrupt disavowal Friday of its November bombshell article, "A Rape on Campus" at the University of Virginia, is drawing outrage from journalists and rape activists alike.
“Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie's story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her,” Rolling Stone Managing Editor Will Dana wrote, referring to the supposed victim of a campus sexual assault.
"In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie's account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story," he added.
Reaction to Rolling Stone’s admission was both swift and furious from across the ideological spectrum.
“Rape on college campuses remains a huge problem,” the Huffington Post’s Sam Steintweeted. “Tragedy of the story is it will distract from that/cast doubt on future incidents.”
Similarly, Breitbart News' Mary Chastain called it “a complete disgrace to actual rape victims.” And the Washington Free Beacon's Lachlan Markaysaid “Rolling Stone is really screwing over other victims who will now face even greater skepticism in reporting campus rape.”
Some journalists who defended the article, even after its many inconstancies came to light, blasted Rolling Stone for failing to vet the story properly.
"This is really, really bad. It means, of course, that when I dismissed Richard Bradley and Robby Soave's doubts about the story and called them 'idiots' for picking apart [the story], I was dead f**king wrong, and for that I sincerely apologize," Jezebel's Anna Merlan wrote.
"It means that my conviction that [Rolling Stone] had fact-checked [the] story in ways that were not visible to the public was also wrong. It's bad, bad, bad all around," she added.
"Welp. Turns out many of us, myself included, were wrong to trust the story," Slate's Jamelle Bouie tweeted.
Published Nov. 19, the article was written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely and claimed that a group of UVA students brutally gang-raped a student, "Jackie," at a party hosted by one of the university’s many fraternities. The article also alleged that the school worked hard to sweep the incident — and others like it — under the rug.
The article created a firestorm, but also prompted intense scrutiny, especially by the Washington Post and the Federalist. Multiple inconsistencies were exposed, leaving Rolling State no choice.
For example, records indicate that there was no party on the night the assault allegedly occurred at the fraternity house.
Further, Jackie claimed she was invited to the party by one of the members of the fraternity house that supposedly hosted the party. The Rolling Stone article alleged that Jackie and the unnamed frat date met while both worked as lifeguards at UVA's Aquatic Fitness Center. But school officials said there were no records of anyone from that fraternity working at the center.
"Jackie" even asked that she be removed from the story, but Erdely refused to do so, according to the Washington Post.
The original story remains on the Rolling Stone webpage, but it now includes Dana’s meager apology for its publication. The magazine did not respond to a request for comment by the Washington Examiner.