October 26, 2016

ASHE SCHOW: Sabrina Rubin Erdely and the ‘banality of evil.’

When Rolling Stone author Sabrina Rubin Erdely interviewed Jackie for her article “A Rape on Campus,” the now discredited writer described the fraternity alleged to have raped her subject as representing the “banality of evil.”

The phrase “banality of evil” was coined by another author decades ago, and has itself generated fierce debate and criticism ever since. To be clear, Erdely is no Hannah Arendt, the woman who coined the term. Arendt is still widely respected and her writing, including her book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.

Years from now, people will continue to respect Arendt’s work, while they no longer respect Erdely’s.

True. By the way, I’d still like to know more about the role of the Obama Administration, and Emily Renda, in this whole affair.

Catherine Lhamon, who heads the Department’s civil rights wing, was identified in a letter sent last month by University of Virginia Dean of Students Allen Groves to Steve Coll and Sheila Coronel, the two Columbia Journalism School deans who conducted a review of the Nov. 19 article, written by disgraced reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely.

Groves’ letter was included as a footnote to the Columbia deans’ report, which was released on Sunday and cataloged the failures and lies that led to the article’s publication.

In the letter, Groves wrote that he has suffered “personal and professional” damage as a result of Erdely’s reporting and comments Lhamon made about him which were included in the article.

As the Rolling Stone article fell apart, Lhamon’s involvement has gone virtually unmentioned. But a deeper look reveals her ties to Emily Renda, a University of Virginia employee and activist who put Erdely in touch with Jackie, the student whose claim that she was brutally gang-raped by seven members of a fraternity on Sept. 28, 2012, served as the linchpin for the 9,000-word Rolling Stone article.

President Obama nominated Lhamon to become the Education Department’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in July 2013. The Senate approved her unanimously the following month.

She has served as the Education Department’s designee to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault which Obama created on Jan. 22, 2014. Renda served on the same task force. . . .

Lhamon has been invited to the White House nearly 60 times, according to visitor’s logs. Renda has been invited six times. Both were invited to the same White House meeting on three occasions.

The whole thing smells.

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