Heads Will Not Roll at Rolling Stone

Blame Jackie, Erdely, and Rolling Stone.


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As I previously reported, Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner has opted not to fire anyone involved in the now-retracted gang rape story written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, even after a recent investigation by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism highlighted manifest journalistic failures on the parts of Erdely and her editors.

Editor Sean Woods—who made the unforgivable decision to quote Jackie's friend Ryan as declining to be interviewed by Rolling Stone even though no one at the magazine had ever talked with him, or even attempted to reach him—will not lose his job. Nor will Managing Editor Will Dana, nor will the fact-checkers who labored on the story (doing what, I couldn't tell you). Even Erdely, a contributor to Rolling Stone, will somehow keep her job, according to CNN. Wenner said the publication of Columbia's report was punishment enough for all involved.

And in an interview with The New York Times, Wenner laid much of the blame for the story's numerous errors on Jackie herself, calling her "a really expert fabulist storyteller" who hoodwinked his staff. This insistence has prompted something of a backlash, with many on Twitter chiding Wenner for blaming the source for the errors of the editor and the author.

I think it's fine to blame Jackie: she more than deserves this criticism. At one point, many in the media presumed she was exaggerating or misremembering details of the attack because of post-traumatic stress. But we now know that's not the case; Jackie was complicit in a pattern of stunning lies formulated for her own self-promotion and self-preservation. She invented a romantic interest, sent fake text messages from his phone via an online service, lied to her friends about her attack, misrepresented them to a reporter, and fabricated entire conversations at their expense. She used outright deceit to string Erdely and Rolling Stone along. So yes, the magazine was duped by a pathological, yet highly rational, serial liar.

But while Rolling Stone's writers are justified in blaming Jackie, they should also blame themselves. Because even though Jackie's lies were creative, she should have been caught before the story went to print. If Erdely or her editors had done any of the most basic things that their jobs required of them, they would have deduced the truth. A call to any of the friends would have doomed Jackie's narrative, for instance.

Rolling Stone asserts that this mistake will never happen again; its fact-checking model is fundamentally sound. Its staff has apologized. Is there any need for further punishment?

Unfortunately, yes.

I'm willing to forgive their errors. And let's say, for the sake of argument, I believe that they will never make this mistake again. I should still think that at least Erdely, and probably Woods, would have to go. That's because this isn't a case of no harm done. There was considerable harm done to Jackie's friends, UVA, and Phi Kappa Psi. The members of the fraternity had to virtually go into hiding off-campus. The university administration had to defend itself from charges of systemic neglect of rape victims. Jackie's friends were dragged through the mud.

Surely some people have to be held responsible for these consequences, even if they swear that they will never make any mistakes again?

NEXT: A.M. Links: Rand Paul Prepares to Launch Presidential Bid, Report Faults Rolling Stone UVa Rape Story, Obama Pushes Iran Deal

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  1. As I previously reported, Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner has opted not to fire anyone involved in the now-retracted gang rape story written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely,

    Wenner is looking to squeeze into the lucrative supermarket checkout line-up.

  2. Just because it was fake doesn’t mean it wasn’t accurate. Sheesh,

    1. Even if the false accusations bring the possibility of this scenario to light, isn’t it worth ruining a few lives?

      1. The narrative is correct, even if the facts are not.

  3. I blame the patriarchy.

    1. Yeah! We should ask them for permission to fire somebody.

  4. And the fearless leader of UVa plods on without punishment, censure or even saying “oops”.

    1. Just doing his job. When you’re doing your job, you can do whatever the fuck you want. If you’re a cop and you kill person while just doing your job, you didn’t commit murder, you committed an administrative infraction. When you’re a social justice minded journalist and you ruin a few lives with your lies, you are commended for “getting the conversation started”. When you’re an administrator who metes out undeserved punishment to suspected ‘enemies of the people’, you didn’t err in judgement because anyone who is perceived to be an enemy of the people, is an enemy of the people, until the mob decides otherwise.

  5. I wasn’t aware anyone still read Rolling Stone since about 1985. If they are, why?

    1. A few years ago we got a free year as a bonus for buying some concert tickets. I think I found one article worth reading.

    2. The Grateful Dead special issue a few years ago was pretty good. That is the only thing I have ever purchased from RS.

  6. Editor Sean Woods?who made the unforgivable decision…

    Apparently not.

    1. Te absolvo

      *waves hand at Woods*

  7. And in an interview with The New York Times, Wenner laid much of the blame for the story’s numerous errors on Jackie herself, calling her “a really expert fabulist storyteller” who hoodwinked his staff.

    In other words, she’s more dedicated than Rolling Stone.

  8. Rolling Stone: “Other people were malicious, we were just incompetent, I swear!”

    Maybe after a nice libel suit or two…

  9. Heads Will Not Roll at Rolling Stone

    Of course not. Erderly was only sorry because she got caught, and RS issued a retraction because they got caught. Expect more of the same unless they get sued into penury.

    1. I’m going to guess that when all this shakes out, Erdely will not write for Rolling Stone again. Once the lawsuits begin and the parties start turning on each other, she will be so poison that they won’t touch her work.

      Either that, or the blow back from the very idea of not ridding themselves of her will be too great and they’ll part ways.

      1. She’ll get a sweet gig at Gawker… Don’t worry.

        1. Or Politico. Or HuffPo. Or MotherJones where she is undoubtedly held in higher esteem than before the UVA story.

          1. Yes, to Feminazi Progtards she will be hailed as a hero because she was willing to go along with the “all rape claims are true and there is no perfect victim” bs even though it turns out this particular story was not entirely factual.

          2. She seems a natural fit for Jezebel. Doesn’t she have a Masters degree from CSJ?

      2. How much blowback can they really get, though, when hardly anyone reads Rolling Stone anymore?

  10. I noted that in her apology Erdley singled out the readers, the magazine, the “university community”‘ and even rape victims. But unless I missed something she didn’t apologize to the people she maligned directly in the article, particularly the fraternity and the “friends” who she claimed were so callous about a vicious rape.

    I don’t think they get it at all.

    1. She’s apologizing for the harm done to The Narrative. Actual harm to people be damned.
      This seems endemic to the progressive movement. Just look at the current admin. No one is fired. No sacrificial lambs even. “Look, I saw it in his eyes. He/She’s, like, really sorry and they won’t [lie, obfuscate, target political opponents, delete data, steal] anymore. So, we need to move on the current issues at hand…”

    2. If you read the apology, she basically says sorry that she maligned the greater truth of rape culture by incorrectly reporting the mere facts of this rape. It’s disgusting.

  11. Of course nothing will happen. The narrative is what’s important in SWJ-land, not the facts. I mean Erdely only implicated and ruined the lives of a few individuals white privileged frat boys. It isn’t like she gave an Un-PC answer to hypothetical pizza deliveries. Sheesh.

  12. So, network TV liars get canned. Print liars get… written about?

    Is this, maybe, a sign that no one cares about Rolling Stone?

    1. Jayson Blair did get canned.

      Someone ought to go through Erdley’s articles to see if we have another Jayson Blair on our hands.

  13. *shocked face*

      1. [ o o ]

  14. Rolling Stone rehired serial liar Matt Taibbi. They are about as inaccurate as Fox News.

    1. Fox is at least 8 percent more accurate than Rolling Stone, c’mon.

    2. But Matt Taibbi drops F-Bombs right in his articles. That’s how you know he’s a serious journalist!


  15. But those who erred were just being good leftists. Just as a cop who kills someone in their sleep isn’t guilty of murder because he was on duty at the time, so too are leftist media figures not guilty of lies when those lies are done in service to various flavors of leftism. Sabrina Errorly is just a good social justice foot solider, we can’t punish that!

    1. That is right. In both cases they were doing the right thing and meant well. So whatever harm is caused by their negligence or malice is just too bad. Just like cops need to do their jobs and come home safely without the worry of making sure the person they shoot is really a threat, journalists need to report on the evils of the rape culture without the worry of fact checking anything someone tells them that fits the narrative.

        1. #TeachMenNotToRape

  16. The woman who made up this story is clearly a nut. For Rolling Stone to blame her instead of their own negligence in fact checking and outright malice towards the fraternity is appalling. Sure she lied. So what? A lot of people lie. It is the journalists’ responsibility for finding out the truth before publishing people’s lies.

    The Rolling Stone response to this case is the same thing as a DA who convicted an innocent defendant based on false witness testimony that he never bothered to confirm blaming the injustice on those lying witnesses. While they are certainly not blameless, the ultimate fault lies with the person who enabled their lies to do damage without making any effort to ensure they were true.

    1. The more I read about Jackie, the more she reminds me of a pathological liar I used to know. I saw person after person after person taken in by him. But the most basic rules of journalism are set up to stop this, and Rolling Stone simply threw them by the wayside. They fucked up big.

      1. I agree. She is a liar and a narcissist. She wanted attention and she wanted to harm the people she felt were her enemies. These kinds of people are brilliant at taking people in and have an almost feral sense of what someone wants to hear. Jackie sized up Everly in about 30 seconds and knew exactly what to tell her. This episode is not Jackie’s fault. He is who she is and is going to lie and do whatever it takes to get attention. Jackie is responsible for lying. She is not responsible for Rolling Stone believing her and making this a national story. Rolling Stone owns that.

        1. Totally. From WaPo:

          As noted previously in this blog, Erdely was sold on writing about Jackie. She’d passed up more prosaic instances of sexual assault for Jackie’s more extreme and less documentable story. The Columbia report adds more material documenting Erdely’s initial intentions, noting that she said she was “searching for a single, emblematic college rape case that would show ‘what it’s like to be on campus now?where not only is rape so prevalent but also that there’s this pervasive culture of sexual harassment/rape culture,'” notes the report, quoting Erdely’s notes of a conversation with Emily Renda, a U-Va. alumna who transitioned to a job with the school.

          Jackie fed them exactly what they wanted to hear. Erdely went out specifically looking for a story that was “too good to check,” and she got it.

          1. I don’t know a whole lot about journalistic ethics, but I would think that dressing up activism as journalism is a pretty big no-no.

            1. but I would think that dressing up activism as journalism is a pretty big no-no just about all we have left

          2. She wanted a story about how pervasive and prevalent it was; she wanted to show “what it’s like to be on campus now.” And how did she do that? Naturally, she chose the most extreme and shocking story she could find and presented that as the standard, typical college experience.

            I can’t wait to read her articles about how the average person is guaranteed to die from a terrorist airplane attack during their lifetime. And her story about how 150% of cars made in America can be expected to catch fire during their first 20,000 miles.

          3. “Erdely went out specifically looking for a story that was “too good to check,” and she got it.”


            People pretending that Erdley and Rolling Stone failed to “get the truth” due to errors of competence, or that the ‘fact-checking’ failures were a mistake are completely deluded. They got *exactly the truth they wanted* and nothing more.

            They went out of their away to *avoid* any attempt at corroboration. This should be obvious not only in their faux-attempt to contact the non-existent perpetrators (“I called the Fraternity president“…”they were hard to reach”…)

            …but in their conscious decision to ignore the *readily available friends*…. who ‘actual journalists’ at the WaPo were able to use to blow the entire story into pieces in just a few days.

            This was fabulism for a purpose, not a ‘lapse’ in journalistic process.

            Treating it as an “error” misses the entire point of why the story was written in the first place. Or why for most of 2014 journalists were routinely citing a “1 in 5” statistic that has no actual basis in reality.

            Calling “acceptance of a blatant lie” a “mistake” is the new, current failure of journalism.

  17. There was considerable harm done to Jackie’s friends, UVA, and Phi Kappa Psi. The members of the fraternity had to virtually go into hiding off-campus. The university administration had to defend itself from charges of systemic neglect of rape victims. Jackie’s friends were dragged through the mud.

    There’s a reason why Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness is a commandment – number 6 to be precise.

    1. And why perjury is a serious crime and libel and slander are actionable torts.

  18. So, anyone wanna take odds on how long it is before we hear about Jackie in a failed suicide attempt?

    1. I don’t think so. Someone who is that self absorbed rarely commits suicide or even tries. You would have to feel bad about this to have it make you want to commit suicide. I guarantee you she doesn’t feel bad about this at all. In fact, I bet she is happy. She got a ton of attention and caused all kinds of harm to her enemies.

      1. No, but she seems the type to claim an attempt for more attention, and to shame anyone who might be negative towards her.

      2. I’m thinking more suicide “attempt” as a means to garner even more attention, not as some act of remorse.

        1. Yeah, this is what I meant.

          That is why I specifically said failed and attempt.

          She won’t really be trying to kill herself, just make it look like she was because she is so distraught that no one believes her story

    2. No – Jackie’s pretty much disappeared from sight.

      I think she’s just going to hang low and not show up publicly again.

    3. Good point. It won’t happen though until she actually sees some consequences. When she is named in a lawsuit, for example.

      What I’m waiting for is when Jackie turns on Erdely. When Jackie says, tearfully to a television talking head “I tried to tell Sabrina the truth (sob, sob), but she kept pushing me towards saying what wasn’t true. I told her I heard something like that had happened, but what happened to me was way less. I was date raped. (sob, sob). But, it was by one guy. But, she kept saying ‘so this happened to you’, and she wouldn’t let it go, eventually I said ‘yes it did’, but she knew it didn’t.. She knew I had been raped, but she wanted me to say that the rumour I heard was me.” (sob, sob, sob, sob).

      Once she is named in a lawsuit she will turn on RS and Erdely.

  19. Until this so-called jackie gets a real name, the fraud continues.

    1. She named names!

    2. Her real name has been out for months.

  20. I have to say that not firing anyone is inviting a lawsuit. There are reasons why the students/frat wouldn’t want to sue. The defense with argue no damages because their reputation was already bad/they were already rapers and try and dig up everything they can. If you as a frat member felt somewhat vindicated and saw some rough justice then you might not sue.

    What RS’s brass did was pretty much put its finger in the chest of the students/frat and say, fuck you, you won’t sue, we fucked up, but whatever, we’re not going to punish anyone in any way — oh, other than you clowns.

    At some level, this was straight up hate speech. RS and its ilk hate the South, hate frat boys. This story was really about white privilege and frats in general. All the ‘you go girl’ and ‘right ons’ in the initial comments were about this, not so much the specific, alleged rapers in the story.

    If I’m a student, I stick it to them, for no other reason that they killed 1/8 of my college experience over some obvious, made up story.

  21. Good. I don’t want her made a martyr. This should be a signal to readers to take everything they read at Rolling Stone with a grain of salt which they no doubt should be doing anyways

  22. I have a couple of uber-libtard friends on Facebook who graduated from UVA calling for an honor system prosecution of Jackie. How quickly they were attacked by their own is astonishing. Someone actually said that an honor system prosecution would do untold harm to “the movement” and cause fewer women to come forward and report sexual assault.

    Because the actual LYING about sexual assault didn’t do the damage in the first place…

  23. Of course heads won’t roll amongst the elites, and of those of mostly common ethnic backgrounds, and not of the most prominent and major demographics. Such accountability is for only the little people that the Harvard and Ivy League elites absurdly claim have special privilege while these little people are relegated to community colleges and state universities.

    As Ron Unz study on the myth of the American Meritocracy discovered, no sector of America has more racial and ethnic discrimination than the Ivy League admittance policy. It was purposely set up as a group think tank so that policy makers could readily discriminate against others by hiring only Harvard. Those who call out discrimination are then called racists.

  24. It’s obvious why no one’s getting fired — Jann Wenner surely OKed the article. If he shitcans anyone the true story will come out that HE should be the first person fired.

    Lying, hypocritical, Liberals, you just got to hate them.

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