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. It’s delusional to think Althouse comments sections are anything but extremely conservative/ libertarian. There are farrrrrr less liberal voices there than even here.

  2. Nothing wrong with the terms “liberal, lefty, righty, rightist”. It’s when the entire nations ills are blamed solely on one side or another that it gets tiresome and makes the accuser look like a raving partisan.

  3. And that’s only because Professor Turley won’t ALLOW that level of incivility and doxxing, to his credit.

  4. No JetTex. It’s tiresome to daily hear Pogo and ‘company’ yodel out their “liberal, lefty, liberal, lefty, liberal lefty, baaaad liberal lefty” song daily from the mountain tops. Sheesh don’t they know a different song? It’s boring. It’s tedious. It’s unimaginative. I actually don’t enjoy echo chambers and I do enjoy being challenged. I commented on “Althouse” a virtual mud wrestling pit of conservatism, a blog, for three years. This place has not yet reached that level of vitriol and doxxing.

  5. leejcarroll, why do contrary arguments upset you so?

    Let’s take a look at your 1:29 comment of 12/9, in which you linked to a USA Today story about the suspension of a fraternity at Clemson U. back in September. Your point seemed to be that fraternities were so out of control that pledges were dying from initiations.

    Well, I looked into that story, and it turns out that the local sheriff’s investigation determined that no hazing was involved at all. Said the sheriff:

    There has been speculation and innuendo, especially on social media, regarding whether hazing played a part in the death of Tucker Hipps. So far, there has been no indication in the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office investigation that hazing played a part in the death of Tucker Hipps.

    The university backed off its initial overreaction a week later:

    http://www.independentmail.com/news/clemson-to-ease-frat-restrictions-divers-search-lake-near-bridge_94279078

    Now perhaps I missed your point, and it was really about how college deans and the media regularly jump to conclusions based on their preconceptions about fraternity life.

    But your most recent comment suggests that you simply want to cocoon.

  6. @ Aridog

    For those who lament this blog’s changes, and call it degeneration, I’d suggest looking in to the mirror

    What they mean is that it is no longer an echo chamber where everyone expresses the same views and congratulates each other on being so smart for expressing the same thoughts.

    Discussion and disagreement on issues is part of an adult method of conversation. Discussion without denigrating into discounting other viewpoints because they are knee jerk labeled “righty” and trouncing off in a huff when they can’t marshal cogent arguments.

    They miss the warm comforting echo chamber.

  7. For those who lament this blog’s changes, and call it degeneration, I’d suggest looking in to the mirror. You are part of it as well as any “righty” participants. Just defining opposing points of view as “righty” is part of the problem. Does anyone think that “righty” is not a dispersion? As for name calling and sidetracking of topics, or getting “fats” wrong (or even just defining opinion as fact) I’d say, based upon my short time here, that all sides have done it. Never mind that to assert this Truely blog is “righty” now is silly, Professor Turley is the operator and he’s hardly what anyone should call a “righty”, let alone rafflaw or Darren … so IMO you demean him (& them) by making that contention.

  8. So you are saying because “It’s sounds just like a typical righty blog.” that it’s degenerated as Leej implied?

    So only left leaning views matter? That negates what Leej is saying. I do agree with her assessment that people should say “I see your point even when disagreeing” and perhaps I’m guilty of that as well. However, you aren’t innocent either.

    She and 2 others disagree with me and others on the date her book was published in reference to the movie. From everything I read, I thought the movie was from her life experiences and many articles have said such. Also that the industry knew of her transcript and whether she would publish it or not. But the show ‘Girl” was based on her life experiences and most would conclude that it means her diary or transcript, which was her life experiences. They offered her 3.7 million and begged her to publish it, she did.

    So I have to assume that we have two sides here but maybe it just comes down to perception. Hers and mine. She is right in her mind and I feel I am right in mine. There’s two sides to a coin. In reality, who gives a damn! I could less about Lena Dunham and her book, movie, show or whatever.

  9. The FBI did change their definition of rape. Did you bother to click on the source I gave? It’s my opinion that the FBI’s changing the definition of rape is detrimental to this crime category and making it less important to crime statistics.

    On Dunham, sources were given, did you bother to go read them. You have a right to your opinion but so do I. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean this blog has degenerated. I haven’t pounded my point any harder than you have pounded yours.

  10. @Chip S ~ When I said Jackie was a victim of something, I was not referring to the supposed gang rape at UVA. I meant she experienced something, just don’t know what, maybe misplaced memory.Maybe it happened but somewhere else.

    I do not blame her for the story, I blame Sabrina Rubin Erdeley, because she is the one who went rape shopping on college campus’ for a good story to print. RS printed it even though Sabrina Rubin Erdeley called the editor before it went to print to ask they not print it yet. Neither one vetted the story.

    As I said above, I’m upset at this Jackie because she did not report it, which makes me question the viability of her story altogether. If it indeed happened, she had a duty to other females to report it.

    In the meantime, there are a group of young men being accused of something that has’t proven to be truthful. A UVA president that refuses to see that the facts don’t add up yet and punished the fraternities anyway.

    Judgement should be withheld until this story is completely uncovered. If they prove it to be untrue, Jackie needs professional help and RS should be sued until the no longer are viable as a news organization and Sabrina Rubin Erdeley should never work in journalism again.

    1. Msjettexas – at this point they should be suing the UVa as well and the President, personally.

  11. Ever been falsely accused of rape?
    I have.
    Its no fun. Almost cost me my relationship with my now wife as well as the police questioned her also and then warned her to stay away from me.
    Oh yeah. Loads of laughs.

    I had consensual sex with a girl. It was casual and involved no relationship. She knew that going in as I was clear I was dating around casually. In fact, she was apparently cheating on her boyfriend as well.

    So what happened? Apparently she became obsessed with me and when I began dating my now wife, she became unhinged. I literally had no idea either.

    How or why she went to the police I do not know to this day. All I know is they were apparently pretty close to arresting me. I was brought in for questioning and fortunately was able to provide some notes from her referring to the sex being consensual. I was then asked to take a polygraph. Being young and unfamiliar with the workings of things at the time and without counsel, I agreed. When I went to the station to take it I was informed that I did not have to take it as she had also taken one(apparently the notes raised some concerns of legitimacy). She had failed badly they had said and that she then confessed to making it up. A few weeks later she actually called me on suggestion by her therapist to apologize and tell me she was getting mental help. But…

    What if I did not have those graphic notes from her? What if I had thrown them out? They would not have tested her most likely and I would have been screwed. I would have lost my now wife as well.

    Lena Dunham is a lying leftist lunatic who made up the story to fit into 2 political agendas. Feminism and to tarnish the rightwing.

    Btw notice how her sister was molested by Dunham and is now a lesbian.

  12. n one chapter of the book she describes how, as a seven-year-old, she experimented with her sister Grace, who was one at the time.

    ‘One day, as I sat in our driveway in Long Island playing blocks and buckets, my curiosity got the better of me,’ Dunham wrote.

    ‘Grace was sitting up, babbling smiling, and I leaned down between her legs and carefully spread open her vagina.’

  13. Another thread I’ve hesitated to comment on, as I said tongue in cheek earlier on this thread. Part of it is the weird and massive side tracks this thread took on, but mainly, because the subject of “rape” is intensely personal to me for reasons I will not explain except to say I was not the rapist. I do believe it is quite possible for a rape victim to prefer to not report it at the time, if ever. I’ve seen it. None-the-less I tend to be irritated by potentially false claims, such as the Duke case, and perhaps this one, because they actually cause more harm than anything else to real victims.

    I must express a similar opinion as that by Brit Hume, today, about his experience in college and with fraternities. In my time this alleged phenomena did NOT exist…and I was an active frat member on a major university campus. Nothing even close to the allegations made in the Rolling Stone piece seems “real” to me…which is not to say it isn’t at least in part true. However I cannot comment objectively on the merits. So I haven’t.

    Like Brit Hume, who commented earlier today on Fox, my college days were 50 years ago so things may have changed radically and we’d not know it. In my old days once in a while a guy would take a willing girl to his room in the frat house (we did not have Micky Finn drugs back then to enable this) , but was at risk of expulsion by the university if caught, as well as discipline by the fraternity for breaking the house rules. We did NOT take kindly to anyone who exposed all of us to one man’s foibles. If you had a shack up arranged, get a room…elsewhere. That was the rule. And that was in the day and place where open bars were allowed in frat houses, no less.

  14. Oh, wait, you’re one of the deniers. Never mind.

    This is so at variance w/ what ‘ve posted here that “bettykath” must be another Inga sock puppet. Nobody else comments here with the same combination of bad faith and bad jokes.

    My very first comment in this thread said, “Initially I believed Jackie’s story, b/c of UVa’s reputation for a strong honor system.” Notice that I stated the factual basis for my believing Jackie, not simply that I think I’m obligated to believe anything any woman says, because “male privilege” or “rape culture” or other forms of spectral evidence. My current questioning of Jackie is similarly based on actual evidence as it has subsequently become known.

    Jackie is a victim of something, we just don’t know exactly what happened to her.

    I suppose pointing out that this begs the question is being a “denier”, right?

    Jackie is a victim of exploitation by Rolling Stone and the left media…

    Or RS is a “victim” of Sabrina Rubin Erdeley. And it’s practically a fact of sorts that Jackie’s a victim of Nicole Eramo, who may herself be a victim of Title IX. So very many victims! Is there anyone in this story whom you’re willing to hold responsible for their own actions? I mean, besides the males who’ve been accused of a heinous crime. Aren’t they really victims, too? Victims of the rape culture that society erected for them, so to speak?

    As for the “left media”, I think some liberals have been highly principled in this controversy, notably Richard Bradley and Emily Yoffe.

  15. Bettykath,
    “I don’t think Jackie made up the story from whole cloth.”
    – And that means absolutely nothing; we are still at square zero.

    “I think the story needs to be checked, as it should have been before it was published.”
    – Absolutely, now we’re on step one.

    “I refuse to discount an accusation of rape because some details are wrong.”
    – Good for you; still on step but facing back to zero.

    “I expect those accused to deny everything.”
    – I expect that as well; especially if they’ve done nothing wrong. Still on step one facing away from two.

    “I don’t know how much of the story is true and neither do you, so stop blaming the victim, and Jackie IS a victim.”
    – “I don’t know” leading to “IS”; absolutely illogical. Back to square zero and that’s generous.

  16. Chip S ~ bettykath is right on two fronts.

    1st. Jackie is a victim of something, we just don’t know exactly what happened to her. I think maybe she experienced some sort of trauma. It’s possible words or situations were put in her mouth or assumed by the writer of the article.

    2nd. Jackie is a victim of exploitation by Rolling Stone and the left media using her to exact their political revenge on a learning institution that they perceive to be of young privileged white males, which they are trying to demonize.

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