This past November, Rolling Stone had a huge hit with their article detailing a disturbing gang-rape perpetrated by members of a University of Virginia fraternity. There was a major problem with the article, though – the whole thing was false. Rolling Stone was forced to retract it in its entirety in April.
Now, three members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity are suing the magazine for defamation, saying the story “had a devastating effect” on their reputations, according to the Associated Press.
George Elias IV, Stephen Hadford, and Ross Fowler graduated from the University of Virginia in 2013. The three men say that the story included identifying characteristics that led to damaging social consequences. According to the lawsuit filing: “Upon release of the article, family friends, acquaintances, co-workers and reporters easily matched (Elias) as one of the alleged attackers and, among other things, interrogated him, humiliated him, and scolded him.” The suit also noted that the other two men “suffered similar attacks.”
The lawsuit names Rolling Stone, story author Sabrina Rubin Erdely, and the magazine’s publisher Wenner Media. The men are seeking at least $75,000 in damages per count for three separate counts against the defendants. In May, a UVa Associate Dean sued for $7.5 million due to the story casting her as the “chief villain.”
For its part, Rolling Stone displayed a catastrophic failure of journalistic integrity and ethics at every level of the process of publishing the story. A damning report from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism indicted the magazine at every level, from Erdely’s shoddy reporting to senior editors’ non-existent fact-checking. According to the report, Rolling Stone failed at “basic, even routine journalistic practice.” The magazine’s managing editor, Will Dana, and Erdely both apologized for their roles in the debacle, but no Rolling Stone staff were disciplined in any fashion over the story.
Reports of the new lawsuit hit on the same day that the Senate held hearings regarding sexual assault on college campuses.
The senate hearings are based around faulty statistics, like the frequently debunked “one in five women on campus are sexually assaulted” myth, and overhyped false accusations like the fabricated UVa rape case. In the Caleb Warner case at the University of North Dakota, the Duke Lacrosse case, and more all over the nation, false accusations bring life-altering consequences to the accused. In the Warner case, the University even upheld his expulsion after police brought charges of filing a false report against the accuser.
In this environment of fraudulent anecdotes and phony statistics, the senate on Wednesday opened discussion on a bill ostensibly designed to curb campus sexual assault, but which is notably devoid of due process rights for the accused. In fact, the bill refers to accusers as “victims,” despite ample evidence that they are often victimizers.
Those testifying before the senate are a veritable who’s who of anti-male, radical feminist social justice warriors, including Janet Napolitano. As president of the University of California, Napolitano –formerly U.S. Secretary for Homeland Security – commissioned a task force to institute a new policy regarding sexual assault on UC campuses. Napolitano’s task force also ignored rights of due process, and exhibited a proclivity toward presumption of guilt with discussions of “affirmative consent” confidentiality for accusers.
Of course, in a criminal proceeding the Constitution guarantees a right for a defendant to face the accuser, but universities are not criminal courts. A California court earlier this month made a point of reiterating the right to face the accuser to the University in awarding another falsely accused man a judgement against UC-San Diego. “The Court determines that it is unfair to Petitioner that his questions were reviewed by the Panel Chair for her alone to determine whether or not the question would be asked and then answered by the witness,” the court’s ruling stated. “While the Court understands the need to prevent additional trauma to potential victims of sexual abuse, this can be achieved in a less restrictive manner. The limiting of the questions in this case curtailed the right of confrontration [sic] crucial to any definition of a fair hearing.”
The Senate would do well to consider the actual facts of campus sexual assault in their deliberations. If recent history is any guide, though, that once great body will fall in line with the wishes of President Obama, who launched his “it’s on us” campaign last year to facilitate colleges in marginalizing the accused, whether the accusations are just or not.