Rolling Stone publisher Jann S. Wenner placed at least some of the blame for his magazine’s failure to accurately report an alleged gang-rape on the accuser, calling her “a really expert fabulist storyteller.”
Wenner, in an interview with the New York Times, said that Jackie, the sole source of information in the now-retracted article, manipulated the magazine, presumably by failing to respond or provide corroboration when asked.
Glenn Reynolds dubs it “The Marrion Barry Defense,” and notes that Rolling Stone is in a Nixonian modified limited hangout mode as it plans its next move “in contemplation of litigation,” with no one fired, Robby Soave writes at Reason:
Erdely’s editor, Sean Woods, decided to put the “shit show” quote in the final article, even though neither of them tried to reach Ryan to confirm that he had indeed said this. If either had contacted Ryan, he would have told them that the quote was a lie—likely unmasking Jackie as a liar with that one basic act of journalistic integrity.
(The article’s mention of two other rapes at Phi Kappa Psi were also exposed as mere conjecture from a single, highly unreliable source… you guessed it: Jackie.)
Despite these mistakes, no one at Rolling Stone thinks their fact-checking process is systematically broken: they just screwed up this one time, they say. While that’s an eye-rolling assertion, I think I know what caused them to take leave of their senses. The source was a rape victim, and the writers and editors were too afraid of appearing unsympathetic to Jackie’s plight to treat her stonewalling with the skepticism it deserved.
Even so, Rolling Stone has decided not to fire anyone. Erdely, a contributor, will continue to write for the publication, according to publisher Jann Wenner.
That doesn’t seem like a strong enough response to an article that defamed Jackie’s friends, the fraternity, and UVA administrators—and mislead not just the campus, but the entire country, about the sexual assault crisis.
The article has been fully retracted, and no longer appears on Rolling Stone‘s website.
Besides, “If RS fired the reporter and editors, what incentive do they have to protect RS? Keeping them on the payroll is a way of buying their silence,” one of Ace’s commenters notes.
In the meantime, “journalist” Sabrina Rubin Erdely (with a past history of alleged fabulism) apologized to everyone but the UVa frat whom she smeared:
— Ari Cohn (@AriCohn) April 5, 2015
And here comes the litigation. Today, Brian Stelter of CNN tweets, “Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at UVA is moving forward with lawsuit against @RollingStone magazine, source confirms.” At Hot Air, Ed Morrissey adds:
I’d guess that the lawsuit will get settled rather quickly. Rolling Stone’s liability insurer will try to contain the damages to the limit of the policy. One has to assume that they carry a multi-million-dollar policy for this kind of event, so there should be plenty of room in which to work. The insurer will want to limit the damage, plus the magazine will have lots of motivation to stay out of depositions, let alone court:
Since no one at Rolling Stone has apparently yet learned any lesson from this, as Glenn writes, “One person who shouldn’t get off the hook here is UVA President Teresa Sullivan”:
She essentially found the fraternity guilty based on a story in a music tabloid. She could have told the University community that “we don’t convict people based on stories in the media,” that she was going to independently investigate the accusations, and that people named in tabloid stories should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty in the American tradition. She did no such thing. She hastily imposed a group punishment on the entire Greek system, and pretty much stood by while angry crowds mobbed and vandalized the fraternity house. (Faculty members didn’t help by staging their own marches; they may want — especially now — to characterize those marches as “anti-rape” or “pro-woman,” but there’s no getting around the fact that they were perceived at the time, and probably meant, as targeting the accused. In this case, the falsely accused.) As I’ve said before, there’s no place in America today where the authorities are more likely to be found siding with (or at least enabling) a lynch mob than on a university campus, and that’s a disgrace.
The damage from Erdely’s story has already been done. She wanted all of the SJW cliches about shaping the narrative, facts be damned. Well — mission accomplished, sport:
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) April 5, 2015
BREAKING: Rutgers bans all frat parties http://t.co/DD6DSceacB
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) April 6, 2015
And the hits keep on coming. Shot:
Each time a liberal Original Narrative gets blown up, response when caught boils down to: 1. Well, it’s true somewhere 2. Go f*ck yourself — Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) April 6, 2015
— Ben Howe (@BenHowe) April 6, 2015
Yesterday’s reminder of Rolling Stone’s hit on the members of a University of Virginia frat late last year comes hot on the heels of the left attempting to burn down an Indiana pizza parlor and Starbucks’ stillborn efforts to shame its individual customers as racists. Taken together, they illustrate the horrible pathology currently infecting the left. Now that it controls the White House, numerous state legislatures, vast swatches of the culture, the media and big business in general, and has a hammerlock on education, the left is no longer seriously in the business of trying to “reform” large cultural institutions; it’s largely won those battles. Now it’s using the power of large institutions to destroy individuals, as that excerpt from New Republic above unintentionally exclaims.
And an already deformed culture turns increasingly uglier.
Related: Hot Take from the New Republic: ‘Rolling Stone’s Rape Article Failed Because It Used Rightwing Tactics.’