Rolling Stone Retracts University of Virginia Rape Story While Lena Dunham Faces Possible Libel Action Over Her Alleged Rape At Oberlin College

220px-Rolling_Stone_February_1_2012_coverLena_Dunham_TFF_2012_Shankbone_3There are two separate controversies this week over rape stories that have been challenged by critics. Both stories involve leading U.S. universities. Unlike the Duke Lacrosse controversy, neither school is accused of wrongdoing. Rolling Stone magazine has apologized for shocking failures in reporting a sensational rape story where a woman named Jackie alleged that she was gang raped at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, but the Washington Post reported on discrepancies in the account, including the fact that no party was held at the fraternity on the day in question. In the meantime, Lena Dunham’s story of being raped in college has been challenged as containing discrepancies and the man who has faced the most accusations is now considering a libel lawsuit against the author and director.

The Rolling Stone Controversy

Rolling Stone magazine ran the story containing detailed accounts of the rape of Jackie, but it agreed to a demand by the alleged victim not to interview with accused man. It was an astonishing lapse of journalistic principles and the magazine also failed to fully investigate the details of the alleged rape. Notably, however, the magazine issued an apology but then removed this line: “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.” That line was replaced with this line “These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie.”

The story “A Rape on Campus” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, discussed how Jackie was a freshman in 2012 when she was forced to perform oral sex by seven men at the prestigious Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. Various people raised questions over the reporting, including the fact that some of Jackie’s closest friends questioned her account despite Erdely’s insistence that her friends’ accounts were “consistent” with her story. These inconsistencies include Jackie’s initial claim, according to friends and the Washington Post, that she had been raped by 5 men and then later claiming it was 7. Other friends said that there was an absence of any physical injury despite the claim of the magazine that she emerged bloodied and battered. The fraternity also said that there was no party on the day identified by Jackie and that her identification of “Drew” did not match anyone at the house and that in conflict with her claims, no one at the house worked as lifeguards at the pool. One of the named attackers was from a different house and no one by his name is a member at the Phi Kappa Psi. The man named said that he never met Jackie.

The fact that the magazine agreed not to interview the accused was widely condemned. The magazine stated that “[b]ecause of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man who she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men who she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her.” A Rolling Stone editor claimed that it could not reach some of the men, though others including the Post were able to do so.

The Post details clearly identified individuals who were never contacted by the magazine. The Post reported that the person identified in the Rolling Stone story as “Cindy” told it that Erdely’s version of events was “completely false.”

The story of the brutal rape is still available on the Internet with the addition of the apology.

The Lena Dunham Controversy

A man named “Barry” is reportedly considering a libel lawsuit against Lena Dunham for her account of being raped at Oberlin College. She supplied details of the rape by a “mustachioed campus Republican” named Barry. Dunham’s widely acclaimed memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, included an identification of Barry as the rapist and describes him as a 19-year-old student who was known as a “poor loser” at poker with a flamboyant mustache who worked at the campus library and hosted a radio talk show. She also stated that Barry was the “campus’s resident conservative.”

The seemed to reduce the suspects to one man named Barry who was on the campus at the time and named Barry who claims that he has been hounded by the allegation that he is a rapist and that Dunham has refused to speak with him or clear his name.

thDunham’s high visibility has made the rape allegation international news and that has magnified the alleged injury to Barry. She received a $3.7 million advance for the memoir and is a leading producer, writer, and director, including her celebrated work on on the HBO series Girls.

Dunham not only claims that Barry raped her but gives highly graphic details of the encounter. She also quotes a friend who said that after she “once her friend Julia woke up the morning after sex with Barry, and the wall was spattered with blood. Spattered, she said, “like a crime scene.” But he was nice and took her for the morning-after pill and named the baby they weren’t having.”

The conservative website Breitbart has investigated the claims and identified what it says are clear discrepancies. The Washington Post blog has said that those discrepancies offer a solid basis for a libel action.

It is difficult to judge the merits of the claim. However, a libel lawsuit could force a response from Dunham and discovery into her account. Such an action could be based on not just libel but false light. The latter tort is defined
in Restatement (Second) of Torts, Sec. 652E as:

(1) the portrayal must be found to be “highly offensive to a reasonable person” and

(2) the actor had knowledge of or acted in reckless disregard as to the falsity of the publicized matter and the false light in which the other would be placed.

The risk for Dunham is that there may be enough details — and alleged discrepancies — to get such a case to discovery and possibly trial. Discovery could result in depositions of an array of acquaintances and Dunham herself under oath. “Barry” has reportedly set up a donation site to pay for “costs and related fees associated with defending Barry’s reputation including, but not limited to, potentially pursuing Lena Dunham and Penguin Random House for harm caused to Barry’s reputation from the publication and sale of Ms. Dunham’s memoir.”

405 thoughts on “Rolling Stone Retracts University of Virginia Rape Story While Lena Dunham Faces Possible Libel Action Over Her Alleged Rape At Oberlin College”

  1. Here is a paragraph from the Washington Post today:

    “In their first interviews about the events of that September 2012 night, the three friends separately told The Post that their recollections of the encounter diverge from how Rolling Stone portrayed the incident in a story about Jackie’s alleged gang rape at a U-Va. fraternity. The interviews also provide a richer account of Jackie’s interactions immediately after the alleged attack and suggest that the friends are skeptical of her account.”

    Notice that they say this gang rape incident happened in September 2012. They have a picture of Jackie C. participating in a “SlutWalk DC 2011”. She is holding a sign that says my rapist doesn’t know he is a rapist yet kind of thing.

    Now that slutwalk was in April 2011, but the incident in question was Sept. 2012. So how did she know in April 2011 that she was going to be a rape victim in Sept. 2012?

  2. I did find a book about a gang rape at UVA, called ‘Crash Into Me: A Survivor’s Search for Justice’ by Liz Seccuro.

    There are many books about Fraternity gang rape, some with personal stories of hazing and fraternity gang rape initiations of freshman female students. I don’t know if these are all reality but the book mentioned above really did occur. Someone mentioned that they read Jackie’s story in a book and it’s possible too.,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg

  3. Jan Wenner, owner of Rolling Stone, might as well just give the keys to the place to the fraternity guys at UVA who were smeared in the article. RS screwed up, big time.

  4. I said…

    … this Truely blog …

    Obviously proof reading is my friend, I should do it more often. Obviously I meant Turley not Truely.

  5. Another thought Jettexas, women online no matter what the political identity of the blog, seem to be singled out for a heightened type of abuse by a certain type of male commenter.

  6. Jettexas, I’ve had my full REAL name and that of my one of my daughters, the attorney, published on a conservative blog. Doxxing was tolerated and even applauded. The level of misogyny and homophobia was disgusting.

  7. @chip S ~ lmao! wow, those were bad. I can’t help but wonder how “Frankly” feels about Republicans now after Nov. 4th.

    I used to belong to a mostly Liberal blog. If you disagree with them, you are just a half of step of being the poo that they wanted shoved in Sarah Palin’s mouth. I’ve been called every name in the book of “azz-holes”, told to go kill myself and another said to find a can of refrigerant and drink it.

    It was just a constant hammering. I grew tired of it and just stopped. It made me sad to think because I offered a differing view, that I should kill myself. That blog has since been removed. I do feel I’m middle of the road Republican.

    This one is better and I don’t wish to be confrontational, but I don’t want my words to be twisted or misunderstood either. I had a guy on here call me ignorant. Disappointed that he is name calling but I guess it’s nicer than what I was dealing with. lol

    1. Msjettexas – I have been called everything but a ‘white man.’ It has gotten better since some of those who seemed sent to destroy me have left for green pastures, probably Flowers for Socrates.

  8. Hmmm, it’s been very civil here for the last week or so. Even when we snipe at each other it’s been low level sniping, kind of nice actually.

  9. As a newbie here, I thought I’d sample the archives here to gauge the tremendous decline in quality since the voices here became more politically diverse. I went back to Dec. 2013, and clicked here.

    The second comment posted was this, copied in its entirety:

    Donald L. Anderson
    Why would you hope/expect Kongress to make progress on your hopes????
    Kongress works for KKK (Kapital, Kapitalism,Korporations), therefore …

    No thread police pounced on this guy. Then there was a run of decent comments, including some from Notorious Nick Spinelli. But after spinelli complained about something involving something unclear (deletions?), there was this:

    Mike Spindell
    “Bringing over horseshit from a toxic thread I voluntarily left is classless”

    Being Nick Spinelli is classless as he once again tries to make another thread about himself reminding people of a chimpanzee tossing excrement.

    This was followed in short order by a ridiculous amount of back-and-forth about sockpuppets and meatpuppets and, mostly, the Evil Incarnate that is nick spinelli.

    So maybe that wasn’t a fair test of the Olde Turley Blaugh, being polluted by nick spinelli and all that. So I went back to Dec. 2012. Found a post about Newt Gingrich, which seemed like a good test case. First comment:

    does not matter. The one thing the current crop of Republican candidates has proven beyond any doubt is that reality does not have a seat at the table. They are no longer a political party but a religion; adherents have to take everything on faith as they have no proof. When proof is presented it must be ignored.

    Such a well-reasoned argument!

    This is the internet, where people mostly look for people who agree w/ them. Both sides of the political divide do this. I don’t find that interesting, and am grateful for any forum where there’s real debate. It would be a shame if the left-liberals here left in a huff b/c people now challenge their worldview.

  10. Hahahahahaaah, I love it. Haz joins in the side tracked conversation then complains that the topic was deviated from. You can’t make this stuff up, LOL!

  11. So anyhow, here we are on the UVA/Rolling Stone/Lena Dunham topic and the direction is again being changed.

    Same old same old.

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