Rolling Stone retracts UVA rape story; fraternity may sue

"The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking," reads a review by Columbia's journalism school.

By Kate Stanton and Andrew V. Pestano

NEW YORK, April 6 (UPI) -- The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity may sue Rolling Stone magazine after an independent review discredited an article about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia

"After 130 days of living under a cloud of suspicion as a result of reckless reporting by Rolling Stone magazine, today the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi announced plans to pursue all available legal action against the magazine," the fraternity said in a statement to CNN.


Rolling Stone officially retracted the now-discredited article about the alleged gang rape at a UVA's Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house.

An independent review, commissioned by Rolling Stone and published Sunday by Columbia's journalism school, described the story as a "journalistic failure that was avoidable."


"The report by Columbia University's School of Journalism demonstrates the reckless nature in which Rolling Stone researched and failed to verify facts in its article that erroneously accused Phi Kappa Psi of crimes its members did not commit," Stephen Scipione, President of the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, said in a statement. "This type of reporting serves as a sad example of a serious decline of journalistic standards."

The review found that journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Rolling Stone's editors failed to corroborate the allegations of an anonymous source known only as "Jackie."

"The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking," the review continued. "The magazine set aside or rationalized as unnecessary essential practices of reporting that, if pursued, would likely have led the magazine's editors to reconsider publishing Jackie's narrative so prominently, if at all."

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Jackie said she was gang-raped at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in 2012, but subsequent investigations found multiple discrepancies in her story.

Charlottesville Police said March 23 that they found no evidence supporting her account of the alleged rape.

"That doesn't mean something didn't happen. We were just not able to gather sufficient facts," Charlottesville police chief Tim Longo said at the time. "No evidence whatsoever to support those claims."


Erdely's article, "A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA," prompted a national conversation about sexual assault on college campuses when it was published last November. It also led to the temporary suspension of all fraternities at UVA.

Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana apologized in a statement accompanying the review.

We would like to apologize to our readers and to all of those who were damaged by our story and the ensuing fallout, including members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and UVA administrators and students. Sexual assault is a serious problem on college campuses, and it is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward. It saddens us to think that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings.

Erderly and the article's editor, Sean Woods, also apologized, saying that they should have done more to verify Jackie's story with other sources.

"Ultimately, we were too deferential to our rape victim," Woods said. "We honored too many of her requests in our reporting. We should have been much tougher, and in not doing that, we maybe did her a disservice."

"I allowed my concern for Jackie's well-being, my fear of re-traumatizing her, and my confidence in her credibility to take the place of more questioning and more facts. These are mistakes I will not make again," Erderly said.


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