Why Hasn't Rolling Stone Fully Retracted Its Gang Rape Story Yet?


UVA / Karen Blaha

Rolling Stone has admitted that Sabrina Rubin Erdely's story, "A Rape on Campus," contains enough inaccuracies to render the narrative's central allegation effectively false. The editor's note that precedes the article is now more than 600 words long; it concedes—over and over again—that Jackie's narrative as printed in the story is untrue, that key players and events either don't exist or didn't take place, and that multiple on-record sources dispute Erdely's reporting.

Why on earth has the story not been fully retracted yet?

Here is what the editor's note—which is constantly evolving to provide an up-to-date record of the story's thorough debunking—now claims:

Last month, Rolling Stone published a story entitled A Rape on Campus, which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie during a party at a University of Virginia fraternity house, the University's failure to respond to this alleged assault – and the school's troubling history of indifference to many other instances of alleged sexual assaults. The story generated worldwide headlines and much soul-searching at UVA. University president Teresa Sullivan promised a full investigation and also to examine the way the school investigates sexual assault allegations.

Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie's story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man who she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men who she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Sabrina Rubin Erdely reported the story, Jackie said or did nothing that made her, or Rolling Stone's editors and fact-checkers, question her credibility. Jackie's friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported her account. She had spoken of the assault in  campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of Phi Psi, the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn't confirm or deny her story but that they had questions about the evidence. 

In the face of new information reported by the Washington Post and other news outlets, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie's account. The fraternity has issued a formal statement denying the assault and asserting that there was no "date function or formal event" on the night in question. Jackie herself is now unsure if the man she says lured her into the room where the rape occurred, identified in the story as "Drew," was a Phi Psi brother. According to the Washington Post, "Drew" actually belongs to a different fraternity and when contacted by the paper, he denied knowing Jackie. Jackie told Rolling Stone that after she was assaulted, she ran into "Drew" at a UVA pool where they both worked as lifeguards. In its statement, Phi Psi says none of its members worked at the pool in the fall of 2012. A friend of Jackie's (who we were told would not speak to Rolling Stone) told the Washington Post that he found Jackie that night a mile from the school's fraternities. She did not appear to be "physically injured at the time" but was shaken. She told him that that she had been forced to have oral sex with a group of men at a fraternity party, but he does not remember her identifying a specific house. Other friends of Jackie's told the Washington Post that they now have doubts about her narrative, but Jackie told the Washington Post that she firmly stands by the account she gave to Erdely

We published the article with the firm belief that it was accurate. Given all of these reports, however, we have come to the conclusion that we were mistaken in honoring Jackie's request to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. In trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault, we made a judgment – the kind of judgment reporters and editors make every day. We should have not made this agreement with Jackie and we should have worked harder to convince her that the truth would have been better served by getting the other side of the story. These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie. We apologize to anyone who was affected by the story and we will continue to investigate the events of that evening.

Emphasis added to highlight the latest of Rolling Stone's admitted sins. Erdely originally reported that Jackie's friends—the ones who urged her not to go to the police, worried about how their social lives would be impacted, and wondered why she didn't enjoy being with "hot Phi Psi guys"—declined to be interviewed. But those same friends have now given multiple media interviews in which they claimed that they would have gladly told their story to Erdely if given the chance. The above admission in the editor's note suggests that Erdely did not actually try to contact the friends at all, perhaps taking Jackie's word for it that they were unwilling to talk.

These friends have, of course, contradicted virtually all of Jackie's claims, from the details of the alleged crime (coerced vaginal sex and with nine perpetrators vs. coerced oral sex with five perpetrators) to Jackie's state immediately after (battered and bloodied vs. shaken but not bleeding) to the argument over whether to call the police (Jackie said her friends talked her out of it, the friends say they were dialing 911 when Jackie stopped them). The friends have also questioned Jackie's odd behavior prior to the alleged crimes, and have put forth a credible narrative—backed up by the The Washington Post—suggesting that she went to great lengths to invent a fictional suitor. As I explained on CNN's Michael Smerconish show on Saturday, these developments support a "catfishing" explanation.

Rolling Stone is apparently re-reporting the story, according to WaPost's Erik Wemple. Presumably, that entails doing all the work its staff should have done before publishing such incredible—and, as it turns out, demonstrably false—claims. The magazine has given little reason for anyone to believe it's capable of such feats of competent journalism, but should begin by penning what everyone else has already realized is necessary: a full retraction. No more mealy-mouthed statements like "our trust was misplaced" in Jackie (as the editors initially claimed), or "we were mistaken" in reporting details pursuant to Jackie's demands (as they now claim).

More from Reason on this subject here.

NEXT: Kid Suspended for Bringing an Empty Shell Casing to School

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  1. Fake but accurate.

  2. RS has no history of journalistic integrity. '60 Minutes' had the integrity to retract when they were sucked into the BENGHZI! fake scandal.

    1. Tell 'em, PB!

      CBS also had the integrity to dump Sharyl Attkisson for her reporting on Fast and Furious and other fake scandals.

      The mainstream American news media is indeed a glowing exemplar of integrity.

      1. Sharyl's reporting recently consisted of Fox News type innuendo and falsehoods. She is as much of a "reporter" now as Glenn Beck is.

        She has started making up shit about her computer being hacked by CBS lately.

        1. Shreek tells bald faced lies making excuses for inexcusable behavior in desperate, pathetic hero worship then wonders why no one here likes him or will side with him.


          1. But remember, he's a 'rationalist' who mostly certainly doesn't construct lies to back up his worldview or anything.

          2. Once again, it's not sentient! It doesn't know what is truth and what is a lie because it is cognitively incapable of understanding any abstract concept whatsoever.

            I am baffled why you people interact with it and act like it's got any agency whatsoever.

            It's the Internet equivalent of an ant tending to aphids. It feeds you guys comments and harvests your delicious responses. The words it feeds you guys are utterly meaningless to it. They are merely random sequences that it knows from past experience are likely to evoke more of a response.

            It's no more worthy of being mocked than an ant is!

            1. I am trying to decide if the people who scold those who interact with the shreek are making themselves part of the interaction......

              1. Perhaps we are. I don't know why witnessing people interacting with it bothers me so much.

                The futility of people arguing with it is what irritates me. But there are lots of equally futile activities that don't bother me the way people arguing with it does.

                It is my dream that one day it will wander to another more favorable place for it to harvest responses, and I no longer have to scan past people angrily trying to reason with a creature that lacks the capacity to reason.

        2. She is as much of a "reporter" now as Glenn Beck is.

          I don't beleive he pretends to be or claims to be a reporter. Of all the legitimate reasons to jab Glenn Beck, you pick a non-existent one, because thinking and reason is so darn hard.

  3. What I want to know is, when did people start reading Rolling Stone for news outside the entertainment industry? I mean, I know I'm out of the Media Loop. I've almost always been out of the "usual" media loop. I grew up reading THE NATIONAL REVIEW, and have only gotten (by Liberal standards) worse since. But when did TRS start trying to pass itself off as a source of political news that anyone would take seriously?

    1. This is the article I believe that started it for RS.

        1. Well you are full of shit as well PB. You and Taibbi would make a great couple. =)

          1. at least 8% of the time

        2. Of course, shriek has cited Taibbi in the past, so there's that...

        3. You should knwo, you can smell your own.

      1. Matt Taibi, that's a name I haven't heard in awhile.

        1. Isnt he a rapist or something? I dont remember.

    2. What I want to know is, when did people start reading Rolling Stone for news outside the entertainment industry?

      The most hilariously ironic part about it, IMO, is if the story were about some celebrity pop/rock star as the aggressor, it would've been much more relevant to RS and more believable. Possibly to the point of being ignored.

    3. when did people start reading Rolling Stone for news outside the entertainment industry?

      Have you never heard of Hunter S. Thompson or PJ O'Rourke?

      1. *Have you never heard of Hunter S. Thompson or PJ O'Rourke?*

        He/she/it might not have, seeing as how neither of them have been culturally relevant since Nixon died.

        Rolling Stone has long since slipped into an echo chamber/thought silo which doesn't allow any dissent from the far left lunacy they print. Just check their "letters to the editor" section--you'll never find one contrary letter there, just mindless ass-kissing over recent stories. It's curated worse than a damned Gawker comment section.

  4. Have you guys seen CNN's write up?

    They completely avoid any mention of Jackie's friends alleging that *Jackie* begged them not to call the police and the building evidence that her attacker didn't actually exist.

    1. No one who hears reports from any of the major outlets has a clue how egregious this story is or how insane the players are.

      1. Steve Sailer pointed out the other day that as the Jackie story was being demolished by the Washington Post and others, the lead NY Times story was on... the banana harvest in Somalia.

        1. You're just jealous of the pub another tropical fruit is getting, Papaya.

  5. They lost all journalistic integrity when Uncle Duke died.

      1. Lou Reed is dead too!

        1. WHAT?!?!?!

    1. "Too weird to live, too rare to die!"

  6. So obviously the Jackie story is a total fabrication. That much is clear. I think now there are two central questions that need to be answered:

    1. When Ms. Erdely said "Randall" declined to be interviewed due to "loyalty to his frat", there are only two options: A. Erdley was dumb enough to use contact information provided by Jackie to contact "Randall" and accepted that "explanation" via e-mail, or B. Erdley made that up. I think it's important to know if Erdley is the world's biggest dupe or a fabulist. Why? Because:

    2. Are all of the other stories from other women, or even the remainder of the story pertaining to Jackie's interactions with the UVA Administration, true? If Erdley is a fabulist, the entire article needs to be retracted, and Erdley needs to be fired. If Erdley is a dupe, the remainder of the article needs to be completely reviewed...and Erdley still needs to be fired.

    1. Re 1): Although I haven't seen it stated definitively, I don't think Randall was even in a frat. I saw a quote (I think in USA Today, so take it with a grain of salt) that the closest he came to knowing any Greek letters was a history class, or something to that effect.

      Re 2): This is an important point that is being brushed over. The Jackie story was the most detailed one in the article, but it wasn't the only one. It served to support a larger narrative that UVA has a rape culture and a corresponding culture of silence and extreme loyalty to the frats and university. How much of that can be verified? It needs to be looked into.

    2. 3. How many of Erdely's other stories were fabricated? It looks like a number of them.

    3. Erdley needs to never work again. And be sued along with RS and the editor. And Erdley's prior stories need to be sifted through with a fine tooth comb.

      There are others at UVA who need some attention--the whole "take back the night" group has leveraged Jackie's story for two years, uncritically accepting this bogus tale.

  7. Funny sidenote: Hopefully Bill Cosby sends Erdley a Christmas basket this year. She did him a huge solid.

  8. Maybe they think they can salvage it? It's incredible that Erdely hasn't spoken publicly and is supposedly re-reporting (a laughable bit in and of itself). They must think there is still hope for them to come out of this looking good.

    1. Some say there is no such thing as bad publicity.

      1. It's worked for the Kardashians. Not sure if I spelled that correctly, but I don't really want to know how to spell it correctly because that just gives them more power.

          1. Stymied by the work filter. Curses!

            1. Well it's a picture of her face smeared with (menstrual?) blood.

              You can perform the proper occult ritual when you return to your sanctuary.

              1. I think the blood is the result of a chemical peel, or microdermabrasion. Or Ebola.

              2. Excellent. I had a bucket of toads' eyes that I thought was going to go to waste.

              3. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

  9. Updates:

    1. Erdely is attempting to 're-report' the story and has allegedly apologized to "Cindy".

    2. Rape survivor interviewed for the UVA story says Erdely had, "an agenda and part of that agenda was showing how monstrous fraternities themselves as an institution are", and that ""When she asked about my own assault, she kept asking, you know, 'Did he feed you the drinks, was he keeping tabs of the drinks that night?'..."And he wasn't and that's something that I had to keep saying over and over again. And I felt that she wasn't satisfied with my perpetrator as someone who wasn't clearly monstrous."

    1. They're doubling down.

    2. Re bold: bitches cannot motherfucking accept the banality of evil.

      1. Just think if this happened at Yale. Erdely could have presented this as a part of a Skull and Bones initiation ritual. She would have been the darling of the "Truther/Lizard People" crowd.

        1. Are you kidding? And slime holy Obama's hand picked secretary of state?!?

  10. Didn't STEVE SMITH gradumacate from Rape College?

    1. Didn't we all? I mean, what college isn't a Rape College?

      1. Villanova?

        1. Villain Ova? That, my friend, is very funny.

    2. He did his first two years at Rape CC before transferring to Rape University.


      1. This reminds me of the great bit in the movie The Dictator, in which he's told someone works at the rape center.

        "A rape center?" he asks, eyes lighting up.

  11. At least "We were mistaken." is better than "Mistakes were made." or "The gun discharged."

  12. Rolling Stone has admitted that Sabrina Rubin Erdely's story, "A Rape on Campus," contains enough inaccuracies to render the narrative's central allegation effectively false.

    "effectively false"

    "complete and utter bullshit"

    Lightning vs lightning bug.

  13. Apparently our hero was using a burner SMS account to text to herself:

    "Several database phone searches confirmed that Internet domain matches an Internet phone and SMS text service called Pinger."

    1. That confirms what we already suspected.

    2. The friends say Jackie also gave them the name "Haven" as the first name of the upperclassman she was seeing shortly before the purported attack

      Is that an actual name or something?

      1. I think it's a character from a movie, or possibly a spy.

        Using that name should have been their FIRST clue...

        1. These friends sound really gullible. Maybe in the moment it all seemed realistic, but even that is a stretch.

    3. "Randall" is LUCKY he did not let that relationship escalate to anything more than friendship.

      1. He probably sensed the crazy.

  14. We apologize to anyone who was affected by the story and we will continue to investigate the events of that evening.

    Nothing a few gift subscriptions can't fix, right?

  15. I dunno..."Haven" sounds like it *could* be someone's name, but it sounds too "Central Casting" to my ears.

    Query: What name would have been a definite red flag?

    I vote for Johnny Doomcock.

  16. She did not appear to be "physically injured at the time" but was shaken. She told him that that she had been forced to have oral sex with a group of men at a fraternity party

    I suspect that's probably closer to the truth than the Rolling Stone account. What I *suspect* probably happened is she got drunk, started sucking someone's cock, then 4 other bro's decided they wanted to get their dicks smoked too, so she sucked them off figuring she couldn't fight them off so she might as well go with it and it'll all be over soon (which would still fall into the category of sexual assault). But that didn't garner enough sympathy*, or make the frat bros seem monstrous enough (in such a scenario they might have honestly thought that she was into it, and if they had known she wasn't maybe they wouldn't have been such shitheels as to force her, who knows). So she made up a much more fantastical story.

    *Some of her friends might not have been sympathetic - "You got drunk and sucked some guys off, gee that was stupid," and the UVA administration might have not done much because where's the proof?

    1. The above scenario would have been far more believable (shit like that does happen sometimes), but like I pointed out, would also not garner sufficient sympathy or make the frat boys, Jackie's friends, or the UVA administration, seem monstrous enough to push the KAMPUZ RAPE KULTUR narrative that Erdely wanted to push.

    2. Nailed it.

      buyer's remorse =/= rape

    3. In her stomache?

  17. The big question for me is: how much was the editor(s) involved in this fabrication? Maybe TRS editors wanted a Rape Kulture story and encouraged allowed Erdely to create one. To now retract the story would blow more for them than a story, it would blow their premise.

    1. As it has been mentioned elsewhere, Erdely was rather specific about the rape stories she got at various universities. The UVA rape story hits all of the narrative checkbox she was working on, so that's what she went with. It's amazing what you can write when you already have a conclusion to start with.

  18. Hunter S. Thompson is rolling in his grave.

    1. Yeah, right. Please. HST never embellished anything or flat-out lied? Either he did all those drugs he claimed to do [and subsequently couldn't rememeber sh*t] or he lied about doing all those drugs. Which is it?

  19. I looked at the paycheck which had said $7434 , I didn't believe that my mom in-law realy bringing in money in their spare time at their computer. . there brothers friend has been doing this for only 16 months and just paid for the morgage on there place and bought a top of the range Aston Martin DB5 .
    You can join just easy -------

  20. Rolling Stone may catch a break here and determine that Bill Cosby was loose on Campus that night

    1. Or Bill Clinton.

      I think the Cosby news is also bad news for Hillary. She can't run as a feminist champion while covering up for a serial sexual predator. And there are a whole lot of young voters who don't remember Bill's shenanigans in the '90s.

      1. *She can't run as a feminist champion while covering up for a serial sexual predator. *

        Sure she can.

        And Lizzie Warren can run as a native american, too. No one will care because Team Blue runs the media.

  21. They won't retract it until they can come up with an iron-clad reason for pitching Erdely under the bus and absolving themselves.

  22. Looking at it's "flat spots",the name Rolling Stone strikes me as a lot less than is appropriate or applicable. Others will likely feel differently.

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