‘Rolling Stone’ Sued By Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity Members, UVA Grads Over Debunked Rape Story

Rolling Stone is likely wishing now that the story “A Rape On Campus” had completely disappeared at this point. Three graduates from the University of Virginia and members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity are suing the magazine for at least $75,000 on each of three counts, which include defamation and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

This is the story that would not go away for Rolling Stone — at least, not in a good way. In November 2014, Rolling Stone published a story entitled “A Rape On Campus.” At the time, it was one of the few stories in the history of Rolling Stone that an article had gone viral and was not about a celebrity.

The story, which chronicled an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia, was later debunked after the Columbia School of Journalism took Rolling Stone up on its offer to review the investigative process leading up to the story’s publication, which included “lapses in reporting, editing and fact-checking behind the story,” according to managing editor Will Dana. The magazine, according to the report, made several critical failures leading up to the publication of the story, which was later retracted.

No one involved with the story, including the writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely, was fired or otherwise punished for their involvement in the story. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday, July 29 in U.S. District Court in New York, and while Rolling Stone is the chief entity against whom the suit is filed, the magazine’s publisher Wenner Media and Erdely have also been named in the suit.

The men — George Elias IV, Stephen Hadford, and Ross Fowler — claim they were subjected to vicious attacks as a result of the story, which centered around an anonymous woman identified only as “Jackie” and seven men who allegedly gang raped her. The suit alleges that there were details involved in the story that made it easy for them to be identified as the perpetrators in the crime. Now that the story has been debunked, though, the men claim that they are going to be forever associated with the Rolling Stone story.

Of the magazine’s lapses in the accuracy of the now-debunked story, Erdely said on the Rolling Stone website, “If this story was going to be about Jackie, I can’t think of many things that we would have been able to do differently. … Maybe the discussion should not have been so much about how to accommodate her but should have been about whether she would be in this story at all.”

In spite of the flaws in the Rolling Stone story, however, it should be noted that the University of Virginia was already being investigated by the Department of Education for how sexual assault violations were being handled. It’s alleged that the article’s publication resulted in damage to the men’s reputation, although no one at Rolling Stone was effectively disciplined for their role in the story.

(Photo courtesy of Sourcefed.com)