The “Rolling Stone” UVA Gang Rape Botch

Student protest against campus rape at UVA. And if the rape didn't happen? Take a cue from the "hands up!" crowd: keep protesting. The news media won't notice.

Student protest against campus rape at UVA. And if the rape didn’t happen? Take a cue from the “Hands up!” crowd: keep protesting! The news media won’t notice.

Hardly making it to the headlines (except where I live) is the latest example of 1) irresponsible journalism and 2) the results of the Obama administration threatening colleges with sanctions of they don’t presume every male student accused of sexual assault is guilty.

On Nov. 19, Rolling Stone published a sensational report—sensational, mind you—by reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely, telling the tale of a vicious  gang rape at the  Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia. The victim and the source of the story, a young woman called “Jackie,” said that in 2012 she was forced into a room in the fraternity  and raped by seven men, as her date and another man  cheered her assailants on.

In response to the uproar triggered by the story, the university, which was loathe to be a target of investigations and sanctions by the Obama administration if they did not act with appropriate haste and severity,  suspended all the campus fraternities until January as the media went into a feeding frenzy. Meanwhile, the alleged crime is under investigation by local police. [UPDATE: Here is a call to suspend the UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan:  “Her decision was arbitrary, rash and wrong. Even Delta House got some semblance of a trial in the movie, ‘Animal House.'” I do not disagree.]

Several journalists diplomatically raised questions about the account, especially the fact that the story was often phrased in terms that left  no hint that these were allegations only. In an environment where the party in control of the White House maintains that any hesitation to regard a rape accusation as inherently reliable is proof of a “war on women,” one unnamed woman’s  unconfirmed accusation presented as truth by a female reporter was sufficient to trigger adverse consequences for male UVA students with remarkably little reflection: this was unfair, an example of punishing all the horses because someone said that one of them left the barn.

It should be no surprise that the other shoe has dropped.

Phi Kappa Psi  released a statement today in which it denied the assault took place. “Our initial doubts as to the accuracy of the article have only been strengthened as alumni and undergraduate members have delved deeper,” it said in part. The fraternity had no event scheduled at UVA on the weekend that was claimed to be when the gang rape occurred, and “Jackie’s”  claim that one of the men involved had worked at a campus pool did not check out. “As far as we have determined, no member of our fraternity worked there in any capacity during this time period,” the statement said.

Rolling Stone Magazine also acknowledged today that further investigation into the incident and the reporting has shown that its trust in “Jackie,” the alleged rape victim, was unjustified. There appeared to be “discrepancies” in the description of the gang rape. Erdley did not seek to contact any of the individuals whom “Jackie”accused of  rape. She just found the woman “credible.” The magazine’s editor said…

“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.”

This is atrocious, biased journalism, unethical and irresponsible to the core.  The theory, apparently, is that a rape accusation must be believed, based on nothing else. As some wags pointed out, apparently Atticus Finch wasn’t such a hero after all, since in “To Kill A Mockingbird” he challenged the story of a woman who had accused his client, a black man, of rape.

The Atlantic, focusing on the problems a high-profile botch like this will cause for other rape victims who come forward—ideally more quickly and with more details than Jackie—then tried to rationalize the unethical reporting by Erdley and incompetent editing by Rolling Stone by pointing to statistics that purportedly “prove” that 98% of rape accusations are true. So what? The fact that those that aren’t true result in ruined lives and reputations, and often years in prison still make ethical reporting as well as thorough investigation, healthy skepticism and due process for those accused essential. Even if it ultimately turns out that everything reported by Erdley was true, her methods were unprofessional; if they did not result in an injustice, it will just be moral luck. The risk was there, and it was a risk that the principles of journalistic ethics—“Oh, those old things…”—were designed to prevent.

In light of all this, it seems that women really have done a relatively poor job at intimidating the left-biased media as well as its progressive pundits and elected officials. If they had sufficiently pressured journalists into believing that to challenge their accounts of rape, substantiated or not, was proof positive of malicious animus, like the civil rights machine has regarding narratives of police racism, they could depend on much of the media continuing to repeat the Rolling Stone account as truth even if it is completely discredited.

This is, after all, what we are witnessing right now, as the recent grand jury decision in the Eric Garner death has allowed columnists, reporters, and broadcasters—and thus protesters and politicians—to continue to represent what happened to Michael Brown as if Dorian Johnson’s discredited description of his friend’s death was fair, accurate and unbiased.

I guess this is something for feminists to aspire to, right?

Or, in the alternative,

the news media could start being objective, informative and fair.



Sources: New York Times, The Atlantic, Washington Post, Reason

52 thoughts on “The “Rolling Stone” UVA Gang Rape Botch

  1. Jack you simply can’t believe anything these days. Checked some feminist sites, much of it is rationalizations and hypocrisy. Of course a lot of “the poor frats”, “until they have been raped they have nothing to complain about”.

      • Regarding this whole campus rape hysteria, Oliver Friedfeld gives us a different perspective as to hows to view rapists.

        What has been most startling to me, even more so than the incident itself, have been the reactions I’ve gotten. I kept hearing “thugs,” “criminals” and “bad people.” While I understand why one might jump to that conclusion, I don’t think this is fair…Not once did I consider our attackers to be “bad people.” I trust that they weren’t trying to hurt me. In fact, if they knew me, I bet they’d think I was okay. They wanted my stuff, not me. While I don’t know what exactly they needed the money for, I do know that I’ve never once had to think about going out on a Saturday night to mug people. I had never before seen a gun, let alone known where to get one. The fact that these two kids, who appeared younger than I, have even had to entertain these questions suggests their universes are light years away from mine….Who am I to stand from my perch of privilege, surrounded by million-dollar homes and paying for a $60,000 education, to condemn these young men as “thugs?” It’s precisely this kind of “otherization” that fuels the problem.

        True, he writes this about a mugging. But this rationale equally applies to rape.

        “While I don’t know what exactly they needed the money for my vagina for, I do know that I’ve never once had to think about going out on a Saturday night to mug rape people.”

        Imagine Oliver Friedfeld being a rape counselor.

        • I read the tripe you just referenced, and found this gem in the comments section:
          Progressive thinking vs conservative thinking
          The answer can be found by posing the following question:
          You’re walking down a
          deserted street with your wife
          and two small children.
          Suddenly, a Terrorist with a huge knife
          comes around the corner,
          locks eyes with you,
          screams obscenities,
          raises the knife, and charges at you…
          You are carrying a
          Kimber 1911 cal. 45 ACP, and you are an expert shot.
          You have mere seconds before he reaches you and your family.
          What do you do?

          Progressive Answer:
          * Well, that’s not enough information to answer the question!
          * What is a Kimber 1911 cal. 45 ACP?
          * Does the man look poor or oppressed?
          * Is he really a terrorist? Am I guilty of profiling?
          * Have I ever done anything to him that would inspire him to attack?
          * Could we run away?
          * What does my wife think?
          * What about the kids?
          * Could I possibly swing the gun like a club and knock the knife out of his hand?
          * What does the law say about this situation?
          * Does the pistol have appropriate safety built into it?
          * Why am I carrying a loaded gun anyway, and what kind of message does this send to society and to my children?
          * Is it possible he’d be happy with just killing me?
          * Does he definitely want to kill me, or would he be content just to wound me?
          * If I were to grab his knees and hold on, could my family get away while he was stabbing me?
          * Should I call 9-1-1?
          * Why is this street so deserted?
          * We need to raise taxes, have paint & weed day.
          * Can we make this a happier, healthier street that would discourage such behavior?
          * I need to debate this with some friends for a few days and try to come to a consensus.
          * This is all so confusing!

          Conservative Answer:



      • Unfortunately a fair number are saying that it is true and Rolling Stone is now victim blaming just because the girl is confused on “some” of the details.

  2. the news media could start being objective, informative and fair..

    So how does the media get away with being biased, misleading, and unfair?

  3. FYI: Something is funky with WordPress—visits are not registering, and may be comments too. Not sure what’s up. According to the stats page, the site hasn’t had a visit in too hours, and that’s impossible—we average 150-300, and this is the second such period today. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.

    • I was on several times today from multiple devices catching up on some of your posts, I was on your page at least once every hour and half or so. Then again it really could be Ferguson over load, granted I have not been on much the last few weeks so binging yesterday and today I was in Ferguson overload, great posts, just a lot over a short amount of time.

  4. Jack is there any legal way the fraternity can go after Rolling Stone or “jackie”? I know there was property damage and other things reported as a result of the backlash.

    • Can’t go after Jackie, because they don’t know who she is. The frats can try to go after the reporter and Rolling Stone—it’s the kind of slipshod hit piece that occasionally gets nailed for libel.

  5. There’s a person named Melissa McEwan. Twitter, called @Shakestweetz. My head exploded. Look it up at your own risk.

  6. I’m surprised that no one drew a parallel between this latest outrage and the likewise despicable Duke Lacrosse case. Young white “frat brats” continue to be favored targets for political libel and extortion, aided by gutless and immoral educators who will assume their guilt as readily as any. As for “The Rolling Stone”; how many times must they discredit themselves before they finally become “discredited”?! I’d sooner share a Perez Hilton article about Taylor Swift than believe a syllable of anything they have to say on any subject.

    • I was still on weekend Hiatus. I think I’m (or one of) the resident Anti-Feminist(s) here, the comparison is obvious, once mentioned.

  7. This reminds me of the time that feminists at the University of Maryland posted a list of potential rapists, which consisted of every male student at the University, including my son (who was and is not the fraternity type). I considered filing a lawsuit then, but 1)I wasn’t licensed to practice in Maryland, and 2) I figured I would have a hard time proving actual damages. But this portrayal of male university students as presumptive rapists is nothing new.

        • They were punished on the presumption, based on a ridiculously unreliable victim, that they HAD raped, not that they were going to rape. The frats that were suspended based on the RS story hadn’t done anything, or even been alleged to do anything.

          • Uh… No Jack, three of the team were accused, and the entire team was suspended.

            “The Duke lacrosse case was a 2006 criminal case resulting from what proved to be a false accusation of rape made against three members of the men’s lacrosse team at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, United States. The fallout from the case’s resolution led to public discussion of reverse racism, among other things, and the resignation and disbarment of lead prosecutor Michael Nifong.”

            “In response to the allegations Duke University suspended the lacrosse team for two games on March 28, 2006. On April 5, 2006, Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler was forced to resign under threat by athletic director Joe Alleva and Duke President Richard Brodhead canceled the remainder of the 2006 season. On April 11, 2007, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all charges and declared the three players innocent. Cooper stated that the charged players – Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans – were victims of a “tragic rush to accuse.””

            • But that’s because the whole team was at the party. They actually did something: the party was deemed a violation of university standards, since a rape occurred, or they thought it had. The analogy to UVA would be if Duke suspended the baseball, football, soccer and basketball teams because of what members of the lacrosse team did.

              • I get what you’re saying, and how it’s different. but you said “I’m pretty sure that punishing them for being presumptive rapists is new, though.”

                I think that the law that you seem to have drawn is only a matter of scale. Let’s say there was a lawyer who practised family law and was unethical. At what level of association does punishing his associates become acceptable? All lawyers? All family lawyers? All lawyers at the same firm? All lawyers in the same building? All lawyers in the same room?

                No one thought the entire team were rapists, and so this is a form of guilt by association. More, there were faculty members in the group of 88 that said that the entire team’s suspensions were just and warranted because the team operated in a culture of misogyny that venerated rape, it was just a matter of time before they also became rapists. As a matter of scale aside, if you took “team” and interchanged it with “fraternities” I think there are some serious parallels.

                • No, it’s the concept of punishing a culture gone toxic. Not all the Arthur Andersen accountants were corrupt, but their firm had been involved in multiple shady enterprises before Enron, and the decisions was that it was beyond saving. Think of it as a quarantine. You can’t be sure who’s infected, so you just keep them all isolated. That makes sense, sort of, with a company or a team. But fraternities have their own culture: even Dean Wormer wouldn’t suspend the other frats because of Delta House, right?

                  • I don’t know… there are still elements of group punishment that make me uncomfortable with Duke. I’m not saying you’re wrong, and maybe I’m mislabelling the situation. But if an unfounded rape allegation was enough to label something beyond saving, or in need of quarantine…. I think we have an issue.

                    I think I’m making a slippery slope argument, we’ve apparently highlighted two positions… It’s relatively acceptable for an allegation to cause sports teams to be suspended based on a certain fraction of the players’ conduct…. But not for an allegation to cause fraternities to be suspended for the same. Even giving you the first premise… And I still have issues with it…. There is a lot of room between the two situations, in both fact and scope.

  8. Heard a quote yesterday from a young ‘Rolling Stones’ reporter. He said they try to make sure their stories are “mostly true”. Mostly true? Isn’t that like being “sort of” pregnant?

  9. I thought the University went too far with the order to disband fraternities.

    As for the story, I would like to know what the discrepancies are before we throw “Jackie” under the bus. If she lied about the rape, then I hope she is found, expelled, and criminal charges are brought. If there are just some discrepancies, then that’s okay assuming they are minor — that’s true in most crimes. It’s hard for anyone to remember all the details — especially if it happened in the past.

    I’m pissed at Rolling Stone. It had an obligation to fact-check before it published this story — not after it enjoyed all these sales and attention.

  10. From Blake Neff:

    It’s cute that it hasn’t occurred to any journalists that an alleged rapist might have also lied to his victim. #IStandWithJackie

    — Sarah M (@sazza_jay) December 5, 2014

    @RollingStone backs up from the victim b/c the alleged rapist says he didn’t rape her. and in other news the sky is blue. #IStandWithJackie

    — ⠀klc (@kasie19RU) December 5, 2014

    Several suggested that the real reason for the story’s retraction was influence from wealthy or influential alumni of the school or fraternity.

    Interesting how @RollingStone and @washingtonpost are backpeddling over #UVA. Powerful alumni can be brutal. Doesn’t make the story false. — Jessica Hannan (@jessicahannan81) December 5, 2014

    I smell frat boy lawyers that #RollingStone had to walk back printed assertions without asking them. #UVA — Stacie Rose (@igotviews) December 5, 2014

    If @RollingStone in any way caved to pressure from #UVA, now would be a good time to release/leak that information… #rollingstone

    — Sean C. Davis (@seandelakaza) December 5, 2014

    A few even accused Rolling Stone of joining up with the sinister forces of “rape culture.”

    @RollingStone joins the multiple cultural “institutions” that support #rapeculture. #IStandWithJackie — Lyndsay Kirkham (@HisFeministMama) December 5, 2014

    “Discrepancies” is all it takes to convince most of the world Jackie is a liar. Welcome to the rape culture.

    — Melissa McEwan (@Shakestweetz) December 5, 2014


    Some have tried to move on quickly, suggesting that, true or not, the horrifying accusations against the fraternity were less important than the discussion they provoked.

    The energy spent on being skeptical of the #UVA article, should really be used to prevent rape on campuses in the future. Bc it is real. — sandra sánchez (@sandrasanchez) December 5, 2014

    You know what, #UVA frats? If your statement isn’t “We stand with rape survivors,” keep your mouths shut. — Esta Jarrett (@estamj) December 5, 2014

    Whether or not there were discrepancies in her story, it’s important to bring awareness to the horrors of rape and gang rape on campus. #uva — spaceboy1993 (@MeganSearl) December 5, 2014

    • Very good, Kyle. You have done an excellent job of presenting the head-buried-in-the-sand attitude of the Left, along with the spin offered by Ms. McEwan. Yet you have not, I note, included any of the tweets from people who are more rational and do NOT agree with her. Like it or not Ms. McEwan and Dan Rather have a lot in common. And, like it or not, lying is unethical.

  11. This is approaching an Ethics Train Wreck, but it’s like a slow moving disaster, where you already know the outcome, and you know it’s going to be ugly, but you still can’t look away. I’ve been talking about this for years now, and it’s funny how short people’s memories are. Maybe funny isn’t the right word. Tragic. That’s a better word. Every time one of these atrocities hits the media, people get outraged…. for a little while. The feminist clean crew comes in, and they unleash the BS kraken on Twitter, and in a month or so, everyone forgets what just happened.

    I would assume that this lends support to the idea that we just don’t care about men or their problems, and that male disposability is a very real and true thing, or that there IS a rape culture, it just isn’t what we think it is.

    But those are kinda off topic. And they’ve been presented here before. What I’d like to point out is that train wreck I wrote about earlier, the obvious logical conclusion of the Dear Colleague letter, feminist takeover of the Humanities Department and having a burden of proof less than the legal burden of proof.


    The government coerces colleges and universities to reduce their burden of proof, and remove what would otherwise be due process, in the case of a rape allegation, under the threat of removed funding, which for various reasons of management and economics, are necessary for universities to function.

    That reduction in proof and restructuring of the way the ‘court’ functions has led to a slew of people who are kicked out of school, hurt financially, both obviously, in their non-refundable tuition and cost of living while at school, and not so obviously, in future earnings.

    So what is a young man who was railroaded into being labelled a sex offender and crippled financially in a gross miscarriage of justice that bypasses the actual justice system in America do? He sues!

    Currently there are more than 30 young men suing their campuses. Two have won their suits. Several more have reached settlements.

    The obvious losers of this policy are the falsely accused men. But they have a recourse that even if not usually sympathetic to them, at least has their back in this. The not so obvious losers are the universities. They are in a horrible lose-lose situation. If they reject the Dear Colleague letter, they lose necessary government funding. So they participate. If they participate and railroad him, they incur legal costs in defending themselves over what is a true miscarriage of justice. If they participate and there isn’t enough evidence to even railroad him with, there have been instances where the accuser has opened up review cases because SHE thinks SHE’s been treated unfairly.

    TL|DR: The university has no ‘win’ scenario. In no universe does this not cost them money. I’m not sure if this will break any institutions of higher learning, but who wants to bet on an incoming spike in tuition fees?

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