May 13, 2015

ASHE SCHOW: Rolling Stone gang-rape author — still employed.

How does Sabrina Rubin Erdely — the author of the thoroughly discredited Rolling Stone gang-rape story — still have a job?

Erdely was not fired for her erroneous story, even after the Columbia Journalism Review released its damning report on the story. But it seems unlikely she could have a future in journalism.

A lawsuit filed by University of Virginia dean Nicole Eramo — who was vilified in the original Rolling Stone as being “indifferent” to sexual assault accusers —really lays into Erdely and her poor journalism. The lawsuit goes into detail about Erdely’s past articles and their issues, including two other Rolling Stone articles that the author apparently didn’t corroborate.

Erdely’s very first article, which won her an award from Rolling Stone while she was still in college, was completely wrong, according to Erdely herself. Eramo’s lawsuit quotes Erdely as admitting that “just about everything in the story was wrong,” and that because she failed to attend a press conference held by her subject, she just combined facts from other news outlets without verifying the claims.

Erdely’s past failure to verify facts could fit the same pattern as the University of Virginia rape story — narrative first and “facts” later.

When Erdely decided to construct her time-tested narrative of a woman’s rape followed by an institution’s indifference — this time at an American college — she went looking for an alleged victim to fit in to her predetermined story.

Eramo’s lawsuit details some of the other victims Erdely spoke to prior to settling on Jackie at U.Va. and their skepticism of Erdely. Erdely initially wanted to set her story at an Ivy League university, but she couldn’t find a victim who would fit the story she wanted to write. So she settled for a Southern university with a wealthy, white population.

Early on in her process of finding a victim to fit her narrative, Erdely spoke to Alexandra Brodsky at Yale University. At a recent panel in D.C. discussing campus sexual assault, Brodsky said that she “put [Erdely] in touch with a couple of students who had, like, normal rape stories, and none of them were good enough for her.” Brodsky added that it was “unsurprising” to her “that the story [Erdely] eventually decided to publish is one that was, like, literally sensationalized.”

Alex Pinkleton, who was interviewed for the Rolling Stone story, said she was skeptical of Erdely during their talks “because it seemed like she was unwilling to listen to anyone besides Jackie.” Pinkleton added that “[Erdely] did have an agenda and part of that agenda was showing how monstrous fraternities are and blaming the administration for a lot of these sexual assaults.”

Further, Pinkleton said that Erdely kept trying to get her to embellish the sexual assault she had suffered.

She wasn’t reporting. She was being a Social Justice Warrior with a byline. And in Social Justice War, the truth is the first casualty.

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