Campus Free Speech

Rolling Stone's UVA Rape Story Wasn't Just Wrong—It Was Deliberately Misleading

The botched story withheld key details about the magazine's reporting.



The full report on Rolling Stone's botched story about an alleged rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house went online last night. The 12,000 word document, produced by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, is incredibly detailed and incredibly damning. It pins the story's flaws on failures of reporting, editing, and fact-checking up and down the line.

But perhaps the most damning thing to come out of the report—in combination with the surrounding coverage—is that not only did Rolling Stone's editorial team get the story wrong, they made editorial choices, and statements to the press, that obfuscated important details about the reporting that went into the story and what it had actually confirmed.

The two biggest flaws in the reporting were 1) the failure to contact any of the three friends that the story's victim, Jackie, told reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely that she spoke to the night the assault she described took place, and 2) the failure to contact or even verify the existence of the lead assailant, an individual that Jackie claimed worked as a pool lifeguard with her.

Yet despite the fact that Erdely never made contact with any of them, the story contains unflattering direct quotes from the three friends, including one in which a friend says that it would be a "shit show" on campus if word got out about her frat-house assault. It also describes various details about the lead assailant, dubbed "Drew" for the purposes of the story, none of which Erdely verified at all, indeed, none of which she could have verified given that she never confirmed his existence.

In both cases, the decision was made to use pseudonyms for the individuals who weren't contacted. The tactic is revealing about the problems with the story, but also about how Rolling Stone tried to mask those problems.

As Sheila Coronel, Columbia Journalism School's Dean of Academic Affairs, tells CJR in an interview about the report, "pseudonyms were used mainly to paper over gaps in the reporting. Of all the many reasons you might want to use pseudonyms, this one should never be considered."

The decision to use pseudonyms, in other words, was made in order to cover for the fact that critical story details hadn't been verified. 

In addition, the report notes that Erdely's editor on the story, Sean Woods, made the decision to remove language noting that Erdely had not contacted "Drew" or even been able to identify him. As the Columbia report on the article says…

Rolling Stone's editors did not make clear to readers that Erdely and her editors did not know "Drew's" true name, had not talked to him and had been unable to verify that he existed. That was fundamental to readers' understanding. In one draft of the story, Erdely did include a disclosure. She wrote that Jackie "refuses to divulge [Drew's] full name to RS," because she is "gripped by fears she can barely articulate." Woods cut that passage as he was editing. He "debated adding it back in" but "ultimately chose not to."

That's not a reason. It's not even an excuse. It's just a decision to hide pertinent information from readers. Woods chose to remove language that would have clarified what the reporting had and hadn't established. He chose to make the story less transparent.

And he did it more than once. An early draft of Erdely's story included a note—not an actual story line—indicating that the account of Jackie's assault, including the quotes from the three friends is entirely in "Jackie's POV." Woods decided to allow those quotes (including one in which one of the friends says it would be a "shitshow" if she followed up against her attacker) to run without alerting the reader that they came entirely from Jackie's recollection. From the Columbia report:

Woods allowed the "shit show" quote from "Randall" into the story without making it clear that Erdely had not gotten it from him but from Jackie. "I made that call," Woods said. Not only did this mislead readers about the quote's origins, it also compounded the false impression that Rolling Stone knew who "Randall" was and had sought his and the other friends' side of the story.

Again, a decision was made to avoid providing all the relevant information to the readers. It was functionally a decision, as the report says, to mislead readers.

That approach carried over into the interviews that Erdely and Woods gave after the story was published and questions arose about its accuracy.

On a Slate podcast, Erdely was extremely vague when responding to questions about whether she had talked to or communicated with the accused. 

"Yeah, I reached out to them [the accused] in multiple ways," Erdely told Slate. But, she said, "they were kind of hard to get in touch with because their contact page was pretty outdated." So she "wound up getting in touch with their local president, who sent me an e-mail, and then I talked with their sort of, their national guy, who's kind of their national crisis manager. They were both helpful in their own way, I guess."

Questioned repeatedly about whether she had contact "the boys" and the "actual boys" in question, Erdely declined to answer directly. She had plenty of opportunity to answer the questions and explain what she had done. She didn't. 

In a separate follow-up, editor Sean Woods admitted to The Post that Rolling Stone had not contacted the story's alleged attackers. But he also claimed that the magazine had confirmed their identities:

Sean Woods, who edited the Rolling Stone story, said in an interview that Erdely did not talk to the alleged assailants. "We did not talk to them. We could not reach them," he said in an interview.

However, he said, "we verified their existence," in part by talking to Jackie's friends. "I'm satisfied that these guys exist and are real. We knew who they were."

(A spokesperson for Rolling Stone later told the Post that Woods "misspoke" when describing efforts to contact the alleged assailants.)

In the same Post story, Erdely again refused to directly answer questions about what she had verified:

Erdely declined to address specific questions about her reporting when contacted on Sunday and Monday.

"I could address many of [the questions] individually . . . but by dwelling on this, you're getting sidetracked," she wrote in an e-mail response to The Post's inquiry. "As I've already told you, the gang-rape scene that leads the story is the alarming account that Jackie — a person whom I found to be credible — told to me, told her friends, and importantly, what she told the UVA administration, which chose not to act on her allegations in any way — i.e., the overarching point of the article. THAT is the story: the culture that greeted her and so many other UVA women I interviewed, who came forward with allegations, only to be met with indifference."

She added, "I think I did my due diligence in reporting this story; RS's excellent editors, fact-checkers, and lawyers all agreed."

Once again, we see a declsion not to be perfectly straight about exactly what reporting had been done, or exactly what that reporting had established. Yes, Erdely says that it was Jackie's story, as told by her, but she also insists that the story should be accepted based on the "diligence" of her reporting and her belief that the story is credible. 

This wasn't an accident. It wasn't a slip-up. It was a choice, made repeatedly, to avoid being perfectly clear with readers and members of the media about what, exactly, the story had established. It was a choice to withhold or omit true and relevant information that would have changed how people viewed the story, which is to say that it was a choice to deceive them.

This isn't to say that anyone at Rolling Stone believed the story itself to be false. At the time of publication, at least, there's every reason to believe that those working on the story thought it was true. As Erdely told the Post, it was a story that she found credible. (The Columbia report says that Erdely began having some doubts about a week after the story was published, when, in a follow up correspondence, Jackie couldn't recall how to spell Drew's last name.) That thinking, the belief that the story was true, is, I suspect, why the decision was made to remove information about what Erdely had actually verified. Erdely and her editors at Rolling Stone found the story to be credible—and chose not to include details that might have cast doubt on whether or not it was.

(Reason's Robby Soave has already noted several conclusions that can be drawn from the Columbia report here.)

NEXT: It's Getting Stupid on Iran

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The facts were wrong, but the larger truth about rape culture remains true. Or something.

    1. 1 IN 5!!!!!!!!1111eleventyone

    2. That’s bullshit. You’re a white suburban punk just like me.

      1. The life of a repo man is awlays intense.

      2. wanna let me make you a repo-wife?

    3. Facts are sexist.

      1. Logic is rape.

    4. This whole thing confuses me.

      Where does pizza and Teh Gheys fit into this?

      1. I WUZ RAPED BY A GAY PIZZA! student reveals.

        1. You’re supposed to slice the pepperoni first!

          1. Before you put it on a deep-dish?

      2. 1 in 5 gay weddings suffer from a lack of pizza.

      3. Where does pizza and Teh Gheys fit into this?

        Drew worked in a pizzeria in Walkerton, IN. My sources say he refused to serve pizza at a gay wedding that may or may not have taken place.

        1. “I ordered the Haven Monahan pizza an hour ago!”

          “Trust me, it exists, and will arrive shortly.”

  2. Sean Woods appears to be a giant liar or stunningly incompetent. How does he still have a job?

    1. Socialism means having job security for these people (little red Marxians), regardless of the cost.

    2. Because he edited the story the way the managing editor of Rolling Stone wanted.

      This is the organization that Will Dana runs. As long as he’s not getting fired for lying and covering up a falsified smear piece, neither is anyone else…mainly because, if he fires anyone, they’ll likely rat him out for his role. Everyone covers everyone else’s ass and hopes that the lawsuits get thrown out.

    3. Because it would look to the court like he did something worth terminating if they terminated him?

      1. Ding ding ding!

      2. Nah, spontaneous early retirement is commonplace at the Rolling Stone.

  3. This is bad, really bad. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that Erdely and her editors knew exactly what they were doing all along. I would have been at least a little sympathetic to an “I’m a young journalist and didn’t know exactly how to handle the source’s obstinance.” But this, not so much.

    1. Exactly. This is precisely why magazines have editors in the first place. I would hold Woods more accountable than Erdely.

  4. Rolling Stone’s UVA Rape Story Wasn’t Just Wrong ? It Was Deliberately Misleading

    I kind of knew that the moment I saw the story was published in Rolling Stone.

    (A spokesperson for Rolling Stone later told the Post that Woods “misspoke” when describing efforts to contact the alleged assailants.)

    Ha! The guy is too unimportant and small to “misspeak”. Only Very Important People like Senators or Presidents “misspeak.”

    He fucking lied.

  5. I’ve heard people say that sometimes a lie can tell a greater truth. I think the people who say that are morons.

    1. When truth becomes malleable to your ideological needs, then only Elastic Man will know the truth.

      1. We serve a higher truth, the one that comes by telling lesser lies.

    2. “Because sometimes, the truth isn’t good enough. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.”

      Yeah, I still think The Dark Knight is the best comic book movie. Blows away The Avengers IMHO.

      1. +2 scars

  6. Would this report by CSJ on Rolling Stone be admissable in the fraternity’s libel lawsuit as evidence of negligence? If so I don’t see how these guys don’t come out of this rich.

    Amazing how these SJW types have a knack for making their enemies money.

    1. The non-apology from Rolling Stone sure looks like an invitation to a gigantic libel suit to me.

    2. The lawyers (and wannabes/sharks-in-training) will correct me, but I think that organizations have a hard time suing for libel. If a person had been identified in the story, he would have standing, but the frat itself does not.
      Also, the U of V is part of the government, and I believe the government can never sue for slander or libel, due to freedom of speech issues.

      1. Eugene Volokh disagrees:

        The Columbia report provides powerful evidence that Rolling Stone was negligent in its investigation ? and negligence is all that’s required for at least some kinds of damages to be recovered in some of the possible libel claims.
        It’s possible that the fraternity and perhaps its members might be able to sue, but the matter is complicated.
        UVA itself definitely can’t sue, because government agencies can’t sue for libel.

        1. Seems he agreed with me more than he disagreed.

        2. Volokh is no genius in the law, he’s just someone that non-lawyer reason commenters like as an “expert” because he’s willing to occasionally say something liberty-ish.

          As a self-promoter, Eugene Volokh is right up there with Radley Balko on legal issues, and about as correct almost as often. In other words, 50/50.

          1. And your track record is pretty impressive on the self-aggrandizing front, but not the other.

          2. He has a law degree and worked for a Supreme Court Justice. He’s likely far more knowledgeable about the law than you. What are your credentials?

      2. I don’t think it’s that the frat or members could sue for libel and win, it is that they can sue for libel and have a strong enough case that RS will settle for a very large amount of money.

        I don’t remember if Volkh mentioned it in his analysis, but don’t the friends of Jackie mentioned in the story have a fairly strong case of being libeled? They are individuals who were readily identifiable and had were callously misrepresented in the story using quotes they never said that the reporter and editor made a conscious choice not to verify.

        1. I think they would have a stronger case for libel, yes. Also, although the U of V can’t sue RS, they could be sued themselves by the members of they frat for something. INAL, but they should have a case based on violations of due process or unequal treatment, civil rights violations (14th Amendment) or some such.
          It would be sweet if they won under Title IX.

    3. Yeah, of course it will.

  7. That thinking, the belief that the story was true, is, I suspect, why the decision was made to remove information about what Erdely had actually verified.

    You’re being too kind by giving them the benefit of the doubt in that regard, Peter. There are those that, of course, close their minds to facts for ideological reasons. These people were engaging in propaganda pure and simple. They already had a narrative and were in search of ANY case or allegation, no matter how unlikely or absurd, to give their narrative a sense of verisimilitude.

    1. There’s still a difference between believing it’s true and using it to push your agenda vs. believing it’s false and running with it anyhow. Considering how likely it is that they desperately wanted to believe it was true, since it would be so beneficial in pushing their preconceived narrative, I have no problem accepting that they believed it. They were simply blinded by their own narrative.

      1. Yeah, same.

        1. Yup. Confirmation bias + Projection Bias = Perfect Storm of bad journalism.

    2. Yep. The story about the Rolling Stone rape story can pretty much be summed up as follows: Some journalists had an agenda and were happy to make up a narrative that advanced their agenda.

      This is called post-modern journalism. It used to be called lying.

      1. Well, no, because Jackie is the one who actually made it up.

        1. Re: Hey Nikki!,

          Well, no, because Jackie is the one who actually made it up.

          And the Rolling Stone journalist and editors were these gullible dolts that they believed every word of hers?


          1. That is actually quite reasonable. Somebody tells you something you want to believe, whether these million$ in a Nigerian bank or something that fits your cause, it’s real easy to believe them even when there is glaring evidence something is wrong and send off a big check or run with the story without bothering to verify. [Checking the facts is “obviously” just a waste of time, and the readers will be bored with any discussion of our failure to verify what is surely true.]
            One sign that the editors were blinded by their eagerness to believe is how quickly people started saying “that doesn’t sound right”. If the editors had been criminal here, they would have done a better job. Instead they left lots of ways to be caught. No problem for the true believer who “knows” those checking will merely show him to be right, but the conman makes sure they can’t check, at least before he cashes the check and catches the flight out of jurisdiction.
            The editors were rash and foolish, and should be viewed with a skeptical eye in the future, but yes, the editors were these gullible dolts that believed every word.

    3. And that gal Renda, who had worked/interned for the Obama administration, helped make it happen, by delivering a particularly malleable young woman to the reporter. Gotta respect Renda, though, she saw which way the winds were shifting, began covering her ass immediately. Chick’ll go far in DC.

      1. I thought this was an interesting coincidence:…..LING_STONE

        In her statement, U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan said the article hurt efforts to fight sexual violence, tarred the school’s reputation, and falsely accused some students `’of heinous, criminal acts and falsely depicted others as indifferent to the suffering of their classmate.”

        Nonetheless, the article heightened scrutiny of campus sexual assaults amid a campaign by President Barack Obama. The University of Virginia had already been on the Department of Education’s list of 55 colleges under investigation for their handling of sex assault violations.

  8. That thinking, the belief that the story was true, is, I suspect, why the decision was made to remove information about what Erdely had actually verified.

    That wins the Obvious Award from the Global Institute of Obvious. They were serving a narrative, and had to discard that which does not serve it.

    1. They weren’t serving a narrative. They were publishing fiction as fact, to sell magazines, become famous and make money. And that fiction was something they wanted to believe because it fit in with their belief that many white conservative men in power (or soon to be) are oppressive and willing to use power to satisfy their sexual perversions.

      Of course, they could investigate Bill Clinton and his association with Jeffrey Epstein, but that would not be validating that it’s conservatives who are rapists, and instead lead to cognitive dissonance regarding their support of Clinton, Hillary, and Democrats (who were the slavery/segregation supporters after all, while it was a Republican who ended slavery and legal rape of slaves).

  9. Does anyone recall whether Erdely explained in the original story how she initially found Jackie? I recall her saying in a follow-up interview, before the story fell apart, that she started by contacting a campus activist at UVA, looking for rape victim candidates to profile, and that woman (don’t remember her name) pointed Erdely to Jackie.

    Maybe this was addressed somewhere in the RS piece and I missed it. But if it was left out, it seems like another case of omitting a factual detail that would have benefited the reader. Knowing that “Jackie” was referred by a campus activist, to a reporter who was fishing for horrific rape stories, wouldn’t have discredited the RS piece on its own. But at least for me, it would have added to the doubt I had when I initially read the piece.

    Either way, I can’t help wondering what happened to the student who referred Jackie to Erdely. Not sure if anyone really scrutinized her roll in the whole affair too much.

    1. IIRC, she was a student volunteer at the rape center that was hired as a staff member after graduation. So UVA is on the hook for her behavior as well.

    2. I believe that former student is Emily Renda who is now a U.Va employee.

    3. Not sure it matters. Whoever it was, was not involved in publishing the supposed information, so I’d guess the worst case is that s/he simply passed on campus gossip.

      1. It’s interesting and very unfortunate the web of lies Jackie weaved, as she led to deceive others and get attention, and the resulting harm she caused to many. It’s too bad she won’t be held accountable, and say serve jail time while others were concerned they might be (and who did suffer disgrace to their character and contempt) based on false testimony.

    4. The activist in question is Emily Renda. She is probably breathing a sigh of relief now that her role in this CF hasn’t been more closely examined. She definitely knew about significant discrepancies in the story (she testified to congress about Jackie’s initial version well before the RS story came out) but for some reason chose to keep silent about them.

      1. And her Senate testimony contradicts the the story Jackie told RS.

        Everyone loved Jackie’s story, it seems.

        1. Too good to check!

        2. I WANT TO BELIEVE

      2. Emily Renda seems like a really shady individual who has ties to a bunch of anti-rape organizations of dubious ethics and who probably knew about problems with Jackie’s story and said nothing.

        Here’s a quote from an email she sent someone regarding the rape story:

        “”Also, if worth noting to alumni, I am also referenced in the Rolling Stone article, and it CONVENIENTLY does not mention that [UVA Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer] Pat Lampkin hired me to help with sexual misconduct, and I am on staff here now,” Renda wrote.”

        Emphasis added. What does she mean by ‘conveniently’ unless she’s saying that the article doesn’t mention that in order to obfuscate Renda’s conflict of interest caused by her job?

        1. Yay thread!

          /I hadn’t read quite that far down.

        2. After doing a quick search through the original article on web.archive, I found a number of references to Renda. Mostly in her capacity as Jackie’s early confidant and friend. But the article never seems to state that Renda was the person who put Erdely in touch with Jackie. She is presented simply as just another rape victim corroborating the “rape culture” at UVA.

          If so, that seems really dishonest to omit Renda’s job there, her prior involvement in Jackie’s story, etc. Not the biggest journalistic sin in this mess, but one that jumps out at me. It would be nice if a reporter tried to interview her as part of the autopsy of the original piece.

          1. Don’t have the link, but one of the initial reports, post Rape on Campus but pre Bradley, had it that Erdley was shopping for the right story, having first tried a few northern schools. Someone put her in touch with Renda, who handed her Jackie. Renda was proud of her role at the time.

            1. Yes, I recall that basic sequence of events, too. If Renda knew about the first version of the rape story and then facilitated the RS article that claimed the second, more violent version, and never said anything, that is messed up.

              1. I’d bet Renda coached Jackie on the narrative, groomed her, if you will, as Renda fully intends to make a career out of fighting this “crisis.”

  10. ” She definitely knew about significant discrepancies in the story (she testified to congress about Jackie’s initial version well before the RS story came out) but for some reason chose to keep silent about them.”

    Did she lie to a congressional committee and can this lead to contempt of congress charges?

    Just curious…

    1. Probably not. I’m assuming at the time she testified the “five guys oral fun” was the only version she heard. She should have known something was up after the “seven guys glass table” version came out later, although we probably cant be sure if that happened before or after the RS story started up. Regardless, at some point she had to know about V2, and chose not to warn Erdley that something was up.

    2. Extremely unlikely.

      If they couldn’t get Clemens for lying to Congress about Steroids there is no way they’d be able to hang anything on Renda here.

  11. [I]t was deliberately misleading.

    So, it was a lie?

  12. Virginia Fraternity to Sue Rolling Stone

    I’m thinking the decision to not fire anybody may actually have been a fatal error here – at least in how it indicates that the problem was not the failures of a few aberrant employees but rather an organizational one that in the end condones their conduct.

    1. Certain law prof bloggers have indicated that RS can’t terminate anyone because that means they know they’re guilty of malfeasance.

      1. damned if they do, damned if they dont.

        the technicalities of the case aside, i remain convinced that everything in this process was intentional and that, unlike Peter and Robby…I believe Rolling Stone suspected the story was a pack of lies and went out of their way to do any real due diligence in order to perpetuate it and give it the sheen of “journalism”

        the risk/return from Wenner’s POV was,

        “if it wins, it wins big…if it blows up…well, ‘we messed up, but we were doing the right thing with good hearts and trying to help ‘victims’, etc.”

        1. It’s easier to coordinate a defense when everyone is represented by the same counsel. There’s a lot less finger pointing that way.

          Fire her, and you get a lot more finger pointing.

      2. I’m not a litigator, but I thought that taking remedial action was not admissible as an admission of wrongdoing.

        1. Thought that was only for action taken to correct a dangerous situation, to prevent another from suffering an injury.

  13. Can anyone blame Jackie for making this story up?

    Look at what happened to Mattress girl. Basically No one challenged her account of things and they just took her story at face value and made her a celebrity for taking her brave stand against rape culture.

    It was only after this story fell apart that people went back and looked over Mattress Girl’s story and found similar problems with it’s truthyness.

    Had Jackie not gone too far with the details of her story and just kept it to something more likely believable just like Mattress Girl she would be a celebrity right now, her “friends” lives would be ruined for being such horrid rape apologists, and Psi Kappa would likely be banned from UVA and might be on it’s way to extinction.

  14. This is such a hoot: All of this hoopla over some worthless publication that no one with half a brain pays any attention to.

    The only thing entertaining from Little Jann Wenner’s silly-assed magazine was Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show’s song.

    By the by….is Little Jann good friends with Little Timmy Cook over at Apple? (Another maker of products no self-respecting adult would ever purchase.)

  15. By the way, the current peak derp response to this comes from Talking Points Memo”, wherein anyone who doesn’t agree with the larger narrative is a “rape denier”, whatever that is.

    1. Oh, wait, forgot to put TW: Amanda Marcotte before that link. My apologies for anyone who may have been harmed by my failure to include a trigger warning.

    2. Uh, unless it can be proven with 100% certainty that it is impossible for a woman to lie about rape, the mere existance of the possibility that the accusation is false or not credible is sufficient to warrant skepticism for every accusation.

      Christ on a cracker, why is rape considered such a uniquely horrific crime that we must throw out centuries of liberal legal protections? Is anyone who questions a murder chage a ‘murder denialist’? Or a larceny charge a “larceny denialist”?

    3. I’ll challenge that notion with this piece by Elizabeth Bruenig.


      2. HOLY GOD, YES!

        It’s her first one back from her Easter Vacation too! It’s good to see ESB hasn’t been made rusty by her week off.

        1. She’s disgracing herself on Twitter even more than usual, too.

          1. ESB will take the time to angrily respond to even the least important criticism on twitter.

            Kevin Williamson was making fun of her and I pointed him to a time that ESB angrily declared all her critics to be ‘white men,’ so ESB then proceeded to retweet me and call me an idiot.

            Someone today said ‘If Elizabeth Stoker Breunig didn’t exist, the right would have to invent her’ and he’s definitely right. I know my life would be less entertaining without ESB.

            1. She’s so awful I can’t even bear to hate-follow her.

            2. If by ESB you mean Redhook ESB, then yes, I wholeheartedly agree.

          2. She got into a fight with @Popehat, which was hilarious but sad, in that it was really an unfair matchup.

      3. Yes, ESB is a dishonest, mendacious twit trying to spin this into an indictment of the “right” somehow. But I did not see one comment below the column supporting her thesis, but many calling her out on her BS.

    4. Valenti also still believes Jackie did nothing wrong and is a victim in all of this.

  16. Rolling Stone is thoroughly screwed on this. And the damages, which extend to the reputation of every Psi Phi member regardless of when or if they have graduated, can be vast.

    To me, the interesting question is whether the frat will go after UVA.

    1. John Banzhof, a law prof at George Mason who made his name taking on tobacco companies, has been arguing that not only can they sue the school under Title IX, they can actually sue individual administrators for their role. Be great if they dragged the UVa prexxie into court.

      1. Oh, they have a good case. The interesting question is whether they are willing to bloody their knuckles on a host school, given their need for good relations with host schools everywhere.

  17. ‘Questioned repeatedly about whether she had contact “the boys” and the “actual boys” in question, Erdely declined to answer directly. She had plenty of opportunity to answer the questions and explain what she had done. She didn’t”

    She also avoids admitting what she *hadn’t* done, and repeatedly suggests contextually that there had been more confirmation of claims and identities than in fact had occurred.

    There is a sequence of questions made where Erdley demonstrates “awareness of guilt” by going out of her way to avoid saying “yes or no” to specific statements about who she was or wasn’t able to identify, and instead chooses to steer the discussion into the “culture” at the fraternity, and how it would be “Impossible to imagine people not knowing

    At another point Erdley latches onto how the interviewer (Rosin) notes that the story describes the perpetrators as being in regular contact/exposure to the victim and her friends… and Erdley says, ‘its clear that “people know who these people are‘”…

    Again – contrary to some people wanting to spin this as “errors” on the part of Rolling Stone and Erdley, it has appeared since the beginning to be a willful intent to avoid confirmation and risk losing what was such a juicy and appealing contribution to the “Rape Culture” narrative.

  18. I still want a thorough investigation of Erdely’s other “blockbuster” stories. All of them smell “too good to be true” to me.

  19. So, what happens to “Jackie”?

    Especially when the fraternity lawsuit kicks in big time?

    “Ha! She never existed, so the joke’s on *you*!”

  20. I also think the CJR report is too lenient. It starts off narrating Erdely’s concerns about the piece’s accuracy as if it were her concerns that led to the retraction. In reality she spent three weeks defending the piece and only admitted its failures after WAPO reporting destroyed any ability to claim otherwise.

    1. “I also think the CJR report is too lenient. It starts off narrating Erdely’s concerns…. “

      I read the report’s conclusions and scanned through the preamble and a few other sections… and the whole document is rife with qualifying language about the “Concerns” and “respect” of the journalists, and the “deeply felt” conviction that jackie was telling the truth, and endless other descriptions of people’s mental states and assertions about their emotional motives….

      …the fact that the “report” is as much written in “narrative form” as the original story was for me a signal that the purpose of the document was not to establish “truths” so much as provide a “new story” to cover up the old story with…and ensure that, despite the ‘mea culpas’ and ‘to be sures’/’mistakes were made’, that there would be a complete hand-washing that allowed the media to avoid acknowledging that their peers engaged in willful, knowing deception

      iow….”Everyone had the best intentions”

      There is zero actual reflection on the wider context of how “campus rape culture” had become a narrative that journalists all over the country were falling over themselves in a group-effort to invent a crisis ex-nihilo

      1. journalists all over the country were falling over themselves in a group-effort to invent a crisis ex-nihilo

        Exactly. The CJR report notes RS failed to follow certain processes that would have uncovered the hoax. But CJR doesn’t note that since the accusations were wildly implausible the standard of proof should have increased since the only way such accusations could be believed was with overwhelming evidence. Instead they made excuses for why no evidence was required.

        There are certain practices the publication could use to make a recurrence harder. But the primary failure was SRE’s (and RS editors) complete disregard for truth.

  21. Just a refresher, this is the future of journalism. Fuck the truth, fuck the facts, the narrative rules all:

    Current estimates, cited earlier this year by Vice President Joe Biden, hold that one in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college. That means that in my 200-person politics lecture, roughly a full row will be filled with survivors. In my 20-person major seminar, there are at least two. That is not a calculus I should have to work out in the margins of my Marx-Engels reader.


    Ultimately, though, from where I sit in Charlottesville, to let fact checking define the narrative would be a huge mistake.

    After the Feminist articles of faith are recited, the truth is dismissed. The sanctity of FEELZ and the “lived experiences of all women” are reenforded.

    1. This could happen,'” said Rex Humphries, a second-year who pledged a fraternity last spring.”

      Holy shit, something could happen, AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH, everybody fucking freakout.

      A piece of a meteor could hit your house and kill you, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH
      A plane could crash into your house, AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

      1. I often wonder what it’s like to live in a near-constant state of moral panic.

        Then I take shot of Jack Daniels and stop giving a damn.

        1. “Then I take shot of Jack Daniels

          Implicit racism
          Liquid Patriarchy

          1. Liquid Patriarchy would be such an awesome name for a band.

    2. Nobody actually bothers to mention that the “1 in 5” number is misstated bullshit, right? It’s up there with the “Average age of entrance into prostitution is 13” crap that the anti-sexworkers are always screaming.

      1. This tactic is also as old as dirt. When I trundled off to campus in the early 80’s freshmen were evangelized by the LGBT student association with the “fact” that 10-15% of men are gay, over 50% will have at least one male/male sexual encounter and over 70% have gay fantasies. Even as a 17 year old freshman I had enough sense to look around me and see that we didn’t have a couple of gay guys in every group of ten…. and I lived in a suite with 6 gay guys and two straight guys.

        It was just a bald-faced lie that anyone should have been able to see through. If you didn’t have as many gay guys running around as you had black guys, then those percentages were just wrong.

        But you couldn’t tell that to any of the activists. That made you a homophobic gay-basher. Luckily my suitemates were not of the activist variety. They were wild, and weird, but not activists.

  22. Question:

    Why are we still using a pseudonym for Jackie? Why don’t we know her name?

    There’s no reason to believe she was ever raped, and its apparent that she told a whole lotta lies that caused a whole lotta damage.

    So why are we still protecting her?

    1. Her name is publicly available. I would love to hear why Reason thinks it’s still worth protecting.

      1. I’m going with the chic Marshall Mathers/eminem/slim shady explanation.

    2. Jackie Coakley

    3. Jackie is not much of a pseudonym when the person in question’s name is actually Jackie

      1. It’s pronounced “Eye-Gor”.

    4. Why is Jackie not being expelled for bring false accusations against the university and an entire fraternity of innocent men?

      Why is Jackie not being crushed under the boot of the progressive tyranny machine for now making people more skeptical of rape accusations (this is what they are saying they truly lament for the this whole debacle. Not that a bunch of young men were painted as rapists, who would give a fuck about that?)

      Why is no one kicking the shit out of Jackie for being a worthless piece of trash?

      1. Or at least getting Barbara Walters to interview her?

        1. I would say that this is an occasion for the twitter tyranny army to be in an uproar.

          Christian couple refuses to bake cake for hypothetical gay wedding.

          Holy fucking shit the world is on fire, babies are dying, kittens are drowning, and the magnetic field around the Earth just disappeared.

          Woman makes false accusation that tarnishes the reputation of university and an entire frat house.

          We’re just sorry about the real rape victims. Fuck you victims of false accusation.

      2. She either deliberatly filed a false report, or else she’s utterly nuts (in clinical terms). In either case, why wasn’t she kicked out of college?

        1. It’s like Crystal Mangum – the told the grand jury a story which was later proved false, and she was charged with – nothing! They only put her in prison later, for killing her boyfriend. Poor guy might still be alive if she’d gone to prison for perjury.

          (or if he’d taken to heart the maxim, “don’t stick it in crazy”)

          1. If I hadn’t found a one in a billion woman to marry, I would simply stick with hookers. Feminists don’t give a fuck about them as they aren’t real people in their eyes.

            No way would I even look at just your everyday girl now. Maybe an older woman that isn’t ate up with shit and likes to fuck but beyond that, hookers and jerking off.

            1. *ate up with this feminist shit.

      3. Jackie was just a tool for some folks who wanted to push a narrative. Maybe a little more deranged than some others, but every college campus has trauma queens who’ve suffered all manner of woe.

        I always have this song going off in my head when I meet them.

        1. She was a tool in your sense, *and* in the sense of “she’s a tool.”

    5. If they were going to be consistent, they could have referred to the fraternity as “Tappa Kegga,” and to the administrator they accused of covering up the rape as “A. Shole.”

      But of course, the falsely-accused always seem to get their names spread all over the media while the false accusers get protection.

      The names of all the Duke Lacrosse defendants were plastered all over, while Crystal Magnum’s name was initially covered up – and once they got the name, they found out, “oh, this is the same Crystal Magnum who was accused of trying to ram a police officer with her car.”

      1. Crystal Magnum

        Is that like a pistol 3D printed out of quartz?

        1. Mangum

      2. Mangum. It’s Crystal Mangum. You can’t make this shit up.

  23. I don’t know the details of Virginia defamation law, but I’m guessing that Rolling Stone has done the legal equivalent of slathering itself in A-1 steak sauce and jumping into a cage full of hungry wolves.

  24. Imagine if Fox News had engaged in similar lapses in editorial oversight in a story that accused a Muslim organization of supporting terror. Something tells me the people at Rolling Stone wouldn’t be too sympathetic to the “our source lied to us so it wasn’t our fault” defense.

    The reporter isn’t even going to lose her job. Lying for the cause is never wrong I guess.

    1. “We prefer to think of it as ‘historical fiction’.”

  25. I can’t understand how so many people read that story and thought there were sources other than Jackie. I mean, if you keep asking yourself questions like “so did the reporter actually verify that people saw her covered in broken glass and decided reporting that to the cops would mess with their social calender,” the answer is no, no she didn’t. Question like that don’t linger in well-sourced reports.

    1. There is that. And there is how amazing it is that Rolling Stone thought anyone was going to believe a story like that.

      1. They believed it out of sheer Southern WASP prejudice. If this had been Howard instead of UVA, liberals would rightly excoriate them for racism.

        1. And they live in such a bubble it never occurred to them that anyone would look at the story skeptically.

          1. Right. Everybody knows elite Southern culture is so patriarchal that there’s bound to be a few gang rape initiation rituals, and we finally caught one!

            “But like most colleges across America, genteel University of Virginia has no radical feminist culture seeking to upend the patriarchy. There are no red-tape-wearing protests like at Harvard, no “sex-positive” clubs promoting the female orgasm like at Yale, no mattress-hauling performance artists like at Columbia, and certainly no SlutWalks. UVA isn’t an edgy or progressive campus by any stretch.”

            If you’re not edgy or progressive, there will be gang rapes. It’s science.

    2. Initially, I skimmed it, was shocked, and it fit my preconceptions of out-of-control sexual behavior in college. I’ve already apologized for this, but my critical faculties must have been on the blink.

      1. See, I skimmed it, and even as a member of the raunchiest animal house at my school, I immediately said “No. Fucking. Way.”

        If the story was even half true, we’re talking ambulance to the ER, inpatient admission, period, full stop.

        It simply wasn’t credible. Ever. In whole or in part.

        1. My immediate reaction was to be horrified…. then I kept reading and that reaction turned to incredulity. It just didn’t ring true. Then I heard other people questioning it and I was pretty sure something was wrong.

          However, confirmation bias is a bitch. My wife has seen a couple of TV reports about the Columbia report on the article today and is still convinced that “that sort of thing happens all the time, and I’m sure that something happened”. So if you want to believe, even a slew of news stories about how the article was false and retracted won’t alter your belief. Even after I told her that the Post had uncovered the entire thing as a fake, including the accused rapist being not a real person, she refused to budge, choosing not to read the reporting on the fake boyfriend.

          Feel my pain, my friends.

      2. I was skeptical when Jackie claimed that men raped her in the dark _when they knew that there was broken glass all around_. I mean really? Who gets their dick out in total darkness when there is violence and razor sharp shards?

        Then we get the reaction from her friends who tell her to not go _to the hospital_ because they don’t want to be associated with someone who “cried rape”. Of course hospitals don’t disclose rape accusations, even if they’re made, which they need not have been. All they had to do was take her to a hospital and give a plausible story. “She was drunk and fell over.” would cover it (it’s not like they never heard that from a student before). But no, her friends were allegedly so worried about her causing a fuss that they kept her away from people with ethical obligations not to breathe a word of what happened. All so they can keep going to the good rape parties. It failed the “I have to be so stupid to believe this lie I shouldn’t be able to read it.” test.

  26. Oh, that Marcotte article… she’s real outderped herself:

    But more than that, what this report makes clear is that “Jackie” makes a piss-poor poster girl for the anti-feminist claim that many rape accusations are nothing more than a woman lashing out at a specific man in retaliation for rejection or some other perceived mistreatment. Because, whatever else she has going on, this report completely eliminates the possibility that it’s a “woman scorned” scenario.

    Not only did Jackie not hand a specific man over to the authorities, but the report suggests that “Drew,” the ringleader of the gang rape Jackie describes, may be a fictional character. (Jackie described him as both a member of Phi Kappa Psi and a lifeguard at the Aquatic and Fitness Center. No such person fitting this description exists.) Instead of trying to bring her supposed rapist to justice, Jackie did everything in her power to stonewall any attempt to find him. When Erdely started to push to find out more about him, the investigators report that “Jackie stopped responding to Erdely’s calls and messages.” The silent treatment worked and Erdely capitulated, agreeing not to try to find out anything about this man, at which point Jackie “now chatted freely.”


    1. Instead of trying to bring her supposed rapist to justice, Jackie did everything in her power to stonewall any attempt to find him.

      I am not avoiding the police or testifying under oath because I have anything to hide. I am doing it to protect my rapist!!

      When Erdely started to push to find out more about him, the investigators report that “Jackie stopped responding to Erdely’s calls and messages.” The silent treatment worked and Erdely capitulated, agreeing not to try to find out anything about this man, at which point Jackie “now chatted freely

      I read that to mean that Marcotte believes there is a rapist. She is literally incapable of admitting that a woman would lie about rape. Wow.

      1. Just look at a picture of Amanda Marcotte and not knowing anything else about her, you can see “leftist feminist dbag” written into her features.

        1. She-Woman-Man-Haters-Club president, and Minister with Misandry Portfolio.

          1. There’s no such thing as misandry, and if there were we deserve it for all being total douchebags.

  27. Is anyone going over Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s other stories to see if there are truthiness problems with those a la Jayson Blair?

  28. Recently, several peer-reviewed journals had to retract papers using falsified data or even written by nonsense paper generator called SCIgen.

    The SCIgen program was originally created to test if peer reviewed journals would publish truly nonsense papers and the creators were able to get a couple papers published that used it. Later, it was released where people used to submit over 120 nonsense papers.

    Have major media ever been tested in a similar way? I mean, has anyone tried shopping around a fake story that fits a narrative to major media to see if they’ll run with it in spite of problem with accuracy as a sort of research project?

    1. Yeah, this girl named Jackie at U.Va…

    2. This stuff has its own Wikipedia entry:

      The media even believed stories planted by Jean-Paul Sartre.

      1. He probably even stole his media fabrications from Heidegger.

    3. If such an experiment were taking place, it would explain the despicable journalism coming out of almost every journalist and journalistic institution in the known universe.

    4. You think you are kidding. Below is a link to a piece in the Claremont Independent written by a liberal complaining that campus liberals have gone insane and are now an embarrassment to other liberals. Many of the comments prove beyond doubt peak retard is not yet attainable. It includes this gem on the nature of objective truth and facts.

      April 4, 2015 at 9:42 pm


      I have very little empathy and understanding for voices that undermine injustices to highlight “fact” and “objectivity.” There is no such thing as objectivity, everyone has a politic whether they choose to acknowledge it or not. This society was most certainly not created on objectivity so let’s stop pretending that that’s a thing. So what’s the motivation for us readers to adhere to this sort of perfect balancing between liberalism and conservatism? Is it so we don’t loose credibility on the left for being too emotional? Fuck that. If the left gets any less left-ier, essentially, our future is screwed. Also, the power lies less in the careful shaping of these political categories, and more in the work that needs to be done.

      The comment goes on but this is the gist of it.…..mpus-left/

      1. Is it so we don’t loose credibility on the left for being too emotional? Fuck that.


      2. I am by no means trying to insult your intelligence with that statement as I’m sure you are very capable person, but rather encouraging you and others to be wise as people in the voices we choose to share with others.

        I can’t imagine what such a person’s, um, internal life is like.

        1. She goes on to provide some clues.

          So instead of talking about Mike Brown’s case as not having enough evidence to indict his murderer, let’s talk about the amount of black men killed by the hands of cops. Instead of playing devil’s advocate in a rape case, don’t mention it, or focus on the larger issue of patriarchy at hand. This opinion piece just feels like a journal entry that should have been left in your personal arsenal of thoughts. I am by no means trying to insult your intelligence with that statement as I’m sure you are very capable person, but rather encouraging you and others to be wise as people in the voices we choose to share with others. There is a much greater need for other narratives than the one presented here.

          1. IOW, even if the individual data points are false the data collection itself is to be believed?

          2. All hail the queen of circular logic!

      3. The future of her being able to control others is screwed. I get her worry here provided I was a fellow control freak

      4. To be fair most of the comments were in support of a superb article and one that I hope to God Tony will read. If nothing more, the melt down he will have will be hilarious.

        There were only a couple of comments like the one you provided. The person that posted your example was also quickly lambasted for having such a dumbass opinion.

      5. I’m not kidding. Do you realize how funny it would be to publish an academic paper detailing how dozens of media outlets that fell for fake stories and then some sort of analysis of it based on confirmation bias and so on?

        But then again? I’m not sure the media would report on such a story unless it embarrassed someone else.

      6. “Fact” in scare quotes.
        Stupidity in print.

  29. And Jezebel nontuples down on trashing Robby:

    Leah Finnegan
    4/06/15 3:03pm

    i mean the work of adversarial reporting should be done before publication. and readers should be able to believe what they read! that is the purpose of the record, the purpose of journalism. i don’t blame anna for her jezebel piece for one second. this was a sensitive situation in which no one behaved well. bradley and soave came off like dicks. i had the same reaction when i read their pieces?”fucking assholes.” their implications were noxious. they turned a journalism imbroglio into a partisan fiasco, which is basically the worst thing that could have happened. and it all glosses over what really happened at RS.

    Robby is such an asshole for getting the story right!

    1. Sure maybe we haven’t behaved very well here by believing the worst sort of false allegation, but you are much worse for pointing that out.

    2. ” Freddie DeBoer –Leah Finnegan

      Worth mentioning how powerful and immediate the backlash was against the people who initially pointed out problems with the story.



      1. Fred deBoer, what a joke. Dude sock puppets his way around the internet looking for ways to promote himself as a White Knight, but also maintains a serious blog where he tells his visitors he’s a PhD candidate in rhetoric and proceeds to explain what rhetoric is and why it’s so great. Meanwhile, he’s tooling around the ‘net going batshit shrieky over “misogyny” and “rape culture.”

    3. Rico Suave got it right? In what way? By once again bringing his metrosexual feminist hipster schtick to the fore?

    4. bradley and soave came off like dicks. i had the same reaction when i read their pieces?”fucking assholes.”

      WAAAHHHHH!!! You told the truth, but you told the truth in a way that hurt my little HUGBOX!! WAAAAAHHHH!!!! FUCKING ASSHOLES!!!! WAAAHHH!!!

      Jesus Christ on a Cracker, Progressives are just utter pieces of shit. Overgrown, overemotional children, every single one of them.

  30. Start working from home! Great job for students, stay-at-home moms or anyone needing an extra income… You only need a computer and a reliable internet connection… Make $90 hourly and up to $12000 a month by following link at the bottom and signing up… You can have your first check by the end of this week………………

  31. I figure that RS saw an opportunity to push an agenda and wasn’t gonna let something as simple as truth get in the way.

  32. These types of fabricated hate crime stories are subversive to the American society and are intended as propaganda to purposely divide our nation politically and socially. It is all structured intentional misinformation so create outcomes, just as was the Iraq War.

    The people who concocted this need to be brought up on felony criminal hate charges and go to jail just as those who oddly run the hate/political correct agenda would recommend for anyone who did the same against their smoke screen and fabrications.

  33. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

  34. They didn’t fact check because they were dealing with a *narrative*, and for liberals, a narrative is even better than a factual story. That’s how the story of a thug who robbed a convenience store, assaulted the clerk, and then attacked a cop and went for his gun transformed into a college-bound “gentle giant” who was gunned down for no reason whatsoever as he was on his knees with his hands in the air, begging for his life.

  35. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

  36. No one wants to use the word ‘hoax’ here. Who perpretrated the hoax? Jackie did. She gulled Sabrina Erdely and Rolling Stone, who helped her broadcast it.

    I was taken in by a con man in a supermarket parking lot last fall. I gave him thirty dollars, _even though I knew he might be lying_. The psychology of getting conned is interesting. One thing the experience illustrates is that, in some circumstances, you believe what you want to believe, or you set aside your skepticism for poor reasons. The stakes for Rolling Stone were extraordinarily high, yet they let Jackie con them. As a result, the three parties together – Jackie, Erdely, and Rolling Stone editors – defamed the fraternity that became the center and unwitting victim of the hoax.

  37. I can’t see Rolling Stone fully recovering from this- there’s just been too much coverage of their poor reporting practices. Even the most basic, routine journalistic checks would have uncovered the falsity of the article. People are smarter than the MSM gives them credit for, too. While no alternative media outlets are saying it, we all know it: Rolling Stone looked over inconvenient “facts” and “fundamental journalism practices” because they are aligned with the agenda forwarded by the story. Erdery even basically admitted she felt the story was valid because, even though it was factually incorrect, it contained a deeper truth about the so-called “rape culture” present on American university campuses.

    The facts are now clearly laid out against Rolling Stone as a propaganda machine which fabricates and deceives to inject life into preconceived narratives. RIP, Rolling Stone, and good riddance. You have joined the ranks of Brian Williams and MSNBC in the spotlight of public shame and disrepute.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.