Rolling Stone and Sabrina Erdely Found Guilty of Defamation In University of Virginia Rape Story

unknownI have long been a critic of Rolling Stone magazine and its contributing editor Sabrina Rubin Erdely (right) in its handling of the infamous campus rape story as well as the University of Virginia in not protecting the fraternity and its students in the controversy. (here and here and here). A jury has found that Erdely and Rolling Stone did defame Nicole Eramo, a U-Va. administrator who oversaw sexual violence cases at the time of the article’s publication. It is a victory for students and academics who are critical of the loss of due process rights for those accused of wrongdoing at universities, the subject of a prior column.

The Rolling Stone magazine retracted the University of Virginia rape story and agreed with a Columbia Journalism School review of major flaws in reporting and editing. However, as I previously criticized, the magazine refused to fire Sabrina Rubin Erdely despite her glaring failures as a journalist in researching and writing the story. For many of us, it was even more insulting to have Erdely testify how she was “A couple of other things struck me as odd. … I was getting a little hinky feeling.” This was due to the statement from the accusing student that she might have been mistaken: “I was just so startled. … Here she was saying in such a casual way, ‘Oh yeah, maybe he wasn’t in Phi Psi.'” Really? What be startled when you were acting without support beyond her account and ignored every other conflicting point or witness? Orderly’s eagerness to “expose” a rape culture at universities blinded her to such failures in writing the 9,000-word article titled “A Rape on Campus.”.

In addition to Columbia the shocking failures of Erdely to interview key witnesses, Sean Woods, the primary editor, was found as lacking in not doing enough to press Erdely to “close the gaps in her reporting.” Likewise, Will Dana, the magazine’s top editor, “might have looked more deeply into the story drafts he read, spotted the reporting gaps and insisted that they be fixed. He did not.” Notably, Woods has insisted he did push: “I did repeatedly ask, ‘Can we reach these people? Can we?’ And I was told no.”

The federal jury saw right through the defense and belated apologies. The 10 member jury concluded that Erdely was responsible for defamation even under the tougher “actual malice” standard of New York Times v. Sullivan, requiring knowing falsehood or reckless disregard of the truth.

Eramo sued over the magazine’s portrayal of her as callous and dismissive of rape reports on campus was untrue and unfair. Frankly, I was more eager to see the fraternity sue, but this will at least impose a cost on publications for such blind advocacy pieces.

Rolling Stone continues to make a good-faith argument while keeping Erdely on staff. It stated in the wake of the verdict that “In our desire to present this complicated issue from the perspective of a survivor, we overlooked reporting paths and made journalistic mistakes that we are committed to never making again.”

The trial lasted 17 days and heard from 12 witnesses as well as the playing of 11 hours of video statements and more than 180 exhibits of evidence.

university_of_virginia_seal-svgDespite the widespread view that “Jackie” lied, her name continues to be withheld. In the meantime, there has been little discussion of the response of the University of Virginia in its immediate crackdown on all fraternities with little concern of the due process rights of that house or its members. University President Teresa Sullivan suspended all fraternities after demanding an investigation by the Charlottesville Police Department to request a criminal investigation. She later decided that “Phi Kappa Psi could be reinstated” after its members were painted as a group of rapists or enablers. Students could have potentially sued not just the victim but the school as we saw in the Duke lacrosse case. However, that did not materialize. The concern is that the University of Virginia has not made any substantial changes in guaranteeing greater due process rights for students or houses accused in such controversies. It has did not take any actions, or even investigated, “Jackie.” One can understand the desire not to discourage other victims of college assaults, a very serious problem for all universities and colleges. However, the lack of meaningful protections for the accused house and (by extension) students remains a concern.

The jury will consider damages and Eramo originally asked for $7.5 million.

30 thoughts on “Rolling Stone and Sabrina Erdely Found Guilty of Defamation In University of Virginia Rape Story”

  1. I suppose I should not expect more rational commentary on a blog run by a libertarian.

  2. People who cry rape, who have not been raped, need to be raped. Take them to a local prison and let the inmates have at em.

  3. Sadly, the fraternity cannot possibly sue. Even though the victim completely fabricated her story, they would be afraid their reputation would be further damaged by “attacking the victim.” Even when the victim lies, if she is sued, the argument is made that it discourages real victims from coming forward. The fraternity would be hesitant to incur any further notoriety, although they were innocent victims in this case. I disagree with this course of action, and believe the consequences for fabricating a rape story (as opposed to just not being able to prove it), should be severe enough to discourage others from lying. Of course, the bar should be high to prove malice and dishonesty, as opposed to just a lack of evidence.

    Vinegar – Oh my God, antifreeze is so toxic! I hope no one died from drinking the adulterated wine. Pets die every year from licking up antifreeze, which apparently attracts them in some fashion. Why in God’s name would they choose a toxic liquid to cheat?

  4. My fav Rolling Stone reporter is Matt Taibbi. However, he too has been brought to heel IMO because of Wenner and his obvious support for HRC. Oh well, another media source bites the dust

  5. Back in the 1980s small airplane manufacturers suspended operations because of the high cost of product liability insurance, which back then amounted to fully one-third the purchase price of a new airplane. Even though a senator from Oklahoma (Jim Inhofe, I think) introduced relief legislation, the small airplane business, after 30 years, still has not fully recovered.

    Volkswagen sells automobiles in the US at a far higher price than in Europe, the extra margin accounting for the huge legal expense of a litigious economy. In other words, Europeans are justified in laughing at us because we eagerly bend over to pay more, just so lawyers can have their way with us.

    There are no free lunches. But in Germany, for example, there are very strict laws, where executives routinely end up in prison for misdeeds. I recall four executives going to prison, after they were caught adulterating a bad grape crop, usung antifreeze to salvage the wine.

    If I’m going to end up with a bad product, I’d rather pay less and see the executive go to prison, rather than pay more and see executives get a slap on the wrist and a pay raise.

  6. Read following report to learn how a single mom was able to make $89,844/year in her spare time on her computer without selling anything>>>>>> MomJob70.Tk

    1. Darren, spam has gotten through here and on the “bat poop crazy” article.

  7. I hope the financial award fully destroys this Rolling Stone bird cage liner. Or better yet, let the new owner convert it into a real paper w/the opposite political slant, whatever that is.

    I was glad to read this case already caused RS owner Jan Wenner to sell half his interest ($49M) in RS to another party. I wonder how much of that sale price went to pay his legal defense.

    May Wenner rot in hell w/the rest of the MSM helping to elect Hitlery.

    1. On the one hand, I’d love to see Rolling Stone implode into nothing.

      On the other hand, what would we line our bird cages with?

  8. This election is the last hurrah for the MSM. They are going out like it’s New Year’s Eve and they’re all alcoholics..well, many are. Make no mistake, this travesty is tied to politics and electing the first woman prez. No lessons were learned by the Duke lacrosse case. The only lesson the press will learn will be folding financially. That is well underway.

    1. Yup, everything that is wrong, regardless of what it is, is the fault of the MSM and Clinton. Talk about a broken record.

  9. Well said. Then there was Tommy, the yellow belly of the county. Coward of the county. But they were reading Tommy wrong. Tommy, my life is over, but yours is just begun.

    His daddy died in prison. Promise me, my son, not to do the things I’ve done. Walk away from trouble if you can. And Papa I sure hope you understand.

    Then after 20 years of crawlin’ Tommy let ‘em have it.

  10. Rolling Stone rape story is old news.

    Obama has an old saying, “Let it play out for a few more weeks. Like DAPL. In ND.

  11. So where are all the lawsuits against political journalists spreading falsehoods and furthering agendas?

  12. Not go all “goose-stepping” demented on this, but it does seem to me that it’s often a Jewish intellectual with an social-vision or -agenda involved in this twisted (or agit-prop) reportage.

  13. It was clear to the jury that Ederly was just making sh*t up to fit her narrative. She did not care who she hurt or damaged. She should be banned from press rooms everywhere, even the Pennysaver.

    Damages are going to be the problem in this case because the administrator was not fired, she was moved to another position in the university. Not sure if the pay was the same, The fraternity has a better case for damages.

  14. In Missouri, our Governor, Jay Nixon pardoned an individual who was falsely accused of molesting his son when his mom and day were going through a divorce. The mother had groomed one of the two sons to make this accusation. Earnest Leap was a registered citizen for 23 years. Many years ago the ex-post-facto situations were not on a public registry but when Megan’s Law was passed in congress and signed by the president he was then public. The Kansas City Star began investigating why 70 registrant families in Clay County were being told they had to move based on a new state law which was unsupported by empirical evidence. When interviewing the Leap family, who had lived at their current residence for 18 years, the story took a sharp turn when the journalist realized how false accusations during a divorce can annihilate a functioning family. Vicki Henry, Women Against Registry

  15. Sabrina Rubin Erdely. Some might say that this case sends a chill on journalism, but the question to ask is Was This Real Journalism? Just because a journalist, or someone posing as a journalist (as we see more of this behavior) writes a story, there is also right and wrong, fact and fiction, good and bad. I could go on, but you get the point.

    Financial penalties, such as punitive damages are awarded as a result of wanting to ‘teach a lesson’. I think that $7.5 million is a good damage award. After all, this story was written with malice. Something a professional journalist should never do. And to do so, should be an expensive lesson to all other journalists.

  16. We all love lawyer jokes (eg – 95% of lawyers give the rest a bad name), but when the system stomps on you, there is no better friend than a lawyer.

    Lawyers are one of the last bulwarks that the individual has against an increasingly powerful system.

    Europeans love to laugh at our litigious society, but just compare the treatment of VW’s diesel owners in the recent fraud. In the U.S., VW owners got justice. In Europe, the VW owners essentially got the finger. The difference was that in the U.S., defrauded consumers could sue; in Germany, the system precluded them from suing.

    1. If the difference between US and German legal protection is true, that is very interesting.

      In watching Netflix show “The Fall” produced in Ireland, I was shocked how common are diesel motors in both commercial and passenger vehicles (from sub compact to full size) in Ireland. I believe diesel motors are just as common throughout Europe.

    2. On the other hand German Politicians have gone to prison for influence peddling after leaving office which is perfectly legal and widespread in the US.In general you are correct that United States Citizens have exponentially more rights and freedoms than German citizens, owning firearms being just one

  17. The mendacious and manipulative cretinette is named Jacqueline Coakley and she hails from Stafford, Va. Jann Wenner’s response to this imbroglio has been stupefyingly arrogant. He’s learned nothing and can learn nothing. Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s a witless social fanatic who has no business in any occupation which operates without intensive supervision. If justice is done here, Rolling Stone ceases publication and has to liquidate assets to satisfy the judgment and SRE never gets another word in print bar on her personal blog. As for the odious Jackie, no young man should get near her until her borderline issues clear up (and fat chance that ever happens). Of course, justice will not be done.

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