While at this point nothing could redeem Rolling Stone's tall tale about a gang rape at the University of Virginia, it's remarkable that new details further undermining Sabrina Rubin Erdely's shoddy reporting are still emerging on a daily basis—and each is more revealing than the last.
Since I last wrote on this subject, there have been several major developments, all concerning the three friends of Jackie who purportedly picked her up from the Phi Psi party and urged her not to go to the police. Those three friends—Ryan Duffin, Alex Stock, and Kathryn Hendley—have now given interviews disputing nearly all aspects of Jackie's story regarding what happened that night.
We now know the "real" given name of Jackie's date on the evening of her alleged rape, September 28, 2012: Haven Monahan. Jackie claimed that Monahan was an older student who had taken an interest in her. Prior to September 28th, Duffin, Stock, and Hendley had pressed Jackie for details about this mysterious love interest. She gave them several different cell phone numbers for Monahan, and they corresponded with him. He eventually sent a picture of himself. Many of his messages contained not-so-subtle hints that Jackie had (unrequited) feelings for Duffin.
We now know that no one named Haven Monahan attended UVA. The phone numbers aren't even real—they redirect back to an internet service that allows people to send texts without having actual phone numbers. And the picture is of a former high school acquaintance of Jackie's who never attended UVA and spent no time in Charlottesville that year.
This strongly implies, of course, that Jackie sent the messages herself. The Daily Caller's Chuck Ross has gathered compelling evidence—including an interview with Duffin himself—that Jackie may have been trying to make Duffin sympathetic to her or develop feelings for her.
Most recently, Ross obtained and published a bizarre email that sheds more light on the nature of Jackie's feelings for Duffin. The email purports to be a message from Jackie to "Monahan" in which she confesses to being totally in love and obsessed with Duffin. "Monahan" forwarded the email to Duffin, claiming that he thought Duffin should read it. If Monahan were a real person, the message would have been oddly timed: it was forwarded to Duffin on October 3, 2012—just a few days after Jackie told Duffin that she was raped by five men during her date with Monahan. But since Monahan almost certainly doesn't exist and is in all likelihood actually Jackie, the email makes the most sense as a form of elaborate cover for Jackie to indirectly share her feelings with the true object of her affection.
The full thing can be read here. A selection:
I didn't fall for Ryan Duffin the first day I met him. Nor did I fall for him on the second day or the third day for that matter. But once I did fall for Ryan, you see, my world flipped upside down. Kathryn doesn't understand what I see in Ryan. I guess I don't understand what she doesn't see in him. He's gorgeous, but gorgeous is an understatement. More like you're startled every time you see him because you notice something new in a Where's Waldo sort of way. More like you can't stop writing third grade run on sentences because you can't even remotely begin to describe something, someone, so inherently amazing. More like you're afraid that if you stare at him too long, you'll prove your grandparents right that, yes, your face will get stuck that way…but you don't mind. You, like everyone else, may think I'm exaggerating, but then again, you probably don't know Ryan Duffin. Ryan has no idea what he does to me…he can make me feel more emotions in one second then I would normally feel in one year. He makes my head spin. And the truth is, I'm crazy about him.
Jackie also discusses "doing anything to switch the scales" to make Duffin like her. (Note: Monahan/Jackie appears to have used famous TV and movie quotes to write the bulk of the email.)
I should note it's still technically possible that Jackie suffered a traumatic sexual encounter at some point during her college years—perhaps even on September 28, 2012, although that now seems implausible given the extent of her deception both before and after that night. Whatever the cause of her trauma, it's difficult not to feel sympathy for a suffering person. I wish her well.
All ire should be reserved for Erdely and her editors: the sole perpetrators of this utter journalistic trainwreck. On that note, the Poynter Institute just awarded Rolling Stone its "error of the year" distinction. Given the incredible chaos this thoroughly false story has wrought, any distinction—even a dubious one—seems almost too kind.
Watch me discuss these matters on CNN's Smerconish below.