Rolling Stone magazine apologized to readers Friday for discrepancies in an article about an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house, with the publication’s editors saying their trust in the woman who gave the account “was misplaced.”
Rolling Stone editors made the choice not to contact the man who allegedly “orchestrated the attack on “Jackie” (the woman who was the subject of the article) nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her,” a decision the magazine says it now regrets.
“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,” Rolling Stone said.
The article chronicled the school’s failure to respond to that alleged assault.
According to the magazine, Jackie, who at the time had just started her freshman year at the Charlottesville school, claimed she was raped by seven men at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, while two more gave encouragement, during a party.
However, the University of Virginia’s Phi Kappa Psi chapter did not have a party the night of September 28, 2012, the date when the reported attack occurred, the fraternity chapter’s lawyer, Ben Warthen, told CNN. He said email records and Inter-fraternity Council records prove there was no party on that date.
Warthen said there were other discrepancies in the accuser’s account. For example, the accused orchestrator of the alleged rape did not belong to the fraternity, the fraternity house has no side staircase, and there were no pledges at that time of year.
“It’s not part of our culture,” Warthen said. “It’s just not true.”
The magazine’s decision not to seek comment from the accused is “outrageous,” Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple told CNN on Friday. He wrote a blog post earlier this week examining problems with Rolling Stone’s reporting.
“They’re threading this whole thing through one voice,” Wemple said. “This is what we call journalistic malpractice. … It’s really outrageous that Rolling Stone would have done this.”
Rolling Stone’s scathing report, detailing not just Jackie’s graphic allegation of being raped and brutalized at a fraternity party, but also UVA’s supposed indifference to victims of sexual assault, stirred a firestorm on the campus.
At a recent emergency meeting of UVA’s governing board, Rector George Keith Martin said, “To Jackie and her parents, I say I am sorry. To the survivors of sexual assault and their families, I am also sorry.”
The board unanimously adopted a resolution affirming a zero-tolerance approach toward rape and sexual assault cases, though what exactly that means remains to be seen.
“This type of conduct will not be tolerated at the University of Virginia,” Martin said. “The status quo is no longer acceptable.”
Catherine Valentine, a student reporter at WUVA, said the article emboldened women to come forward with stories of sexual assault, and that may stop following the magazine’s apology.
“I’m worried that girls are not going to report now out of fear of being called liars,” Valentine told CNN.