The tabloid rag that is Rolling Stone is being sued for running a debunked “gang rape” story at the University of Virginia campus. The magazine’s parent company and the author of the article are also being sued. The suit asks for $7.85M in damages.
The lawsuit charged that Nicole Eramo, associate dean of students and top administrator in dealing with sexual assaults, was defamed by Rolling Stone, Wenner Media and reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely in the November 2014 article about an alleged 2012 gang rape at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
The article “A Rape on Campus” was the subject of immediate criticism when it was published last year. Eventually, the magazine started to walk back its claims about the subject matter and the student who was the source of the story.
Rolling Stone apologized in December for “discrepancies” in the account and admitted it never sought comment from seven men accused of the alleged rape.
The lawsuit charges
Erdely and Rolling Stone acted with actual malice when they published A Rape on Campus. Erdely and Rolling Stone knew that Jackie was not a reliable source for truthful information about her interactions with Dean Eramo. They had serious doubts about the truth of the disparaging claims they planned to make about Dean Eramo, but intentionally violated commonly accepted journalistic norms and consciously failed to investigate sources and information that they believed would have revealed the falsity of the charges they leveled. Erdely and Rolling Stone were intent on painting a narrative that depicted Dean Eramo as complicit in a cover up of Jackie’s allegations and, having made the decision to so accuse Dean Eramo, celebrated their preconceived narrative by including an intentionally doctored illustration of Dean Eramo that depicts her as callous toward a sexual assault victim sitting and crying in her office.
The Columbia Review of Journalism ripped the magazine for lapses in their editorial and reporting judgement last month.
The lawsuit, filed in state Circuit Court in Charlottesville, Virginia, said Rolling Stone, Wenner Media and Erdely aimed to depict the University of Virginia as indifferent to rape on campus.
“To personify the university’s alleged institutional indifference to rape, Erdely and Rolling Stone cast Dean Eramo, who met with and counseled Jackie (the alleged rape victim), as the chief villain of the story,” it said.
They falsely claimed that Eramo tried to persuade Jackie not to report the rape and that she was indifferent to her allegations, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit filed by attorney Tom Clare of Alexandria, Virginia, seeks at least $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.
This isn’t the only lawsuit on the horizon for Rolling Stone. The fraternity at the center of the fake story has also said it is planning to sue the magazine.