Rape

UVA Fraternity Brothers Caught Up in False Jackie Story Sue Rolling Stone

Magazine's managing editor resigns.

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UVA
Wikimedia Commons

Rolling Stone was hit with another lawsuit filed by noteworthy victims of its false University of Virginia gang rape story.

George Elias IV, Stephen Hadford, and Ross Fowler—three of the members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, where the assault on Jackie was alleged to have taken place—claim Rolling Stone defamed them by suggesting they were involved. While none of the them are named in the story, details supplied by author Sabrina Rubin Erdely—such as the name of the fraternity and area of the house in which the attack occurred—made it easy for members of the public to identify them.

As Elias told The Washington Post in January:

In an interview… Elias, who works for a Washington-area construction firm, said that he treasures his years at Phi Psi but that after the Rolling Stone article published, he found himself doubting the people he knew best. As the fraternity was vilified, Elias said, he hesitated to admit to co-workers that he was a member.

"The day it came out was the most emotionally grueling of my life," Elias told The Post, adding that the alleged ritual gang rape hit the hardest. "It assumes that everyone that is part of the frat had to do that, and that hurt a lot of us."

The article was eventually shown to be false. There is no evidence that anything criminal happened at Phi Psi on the night in question, and considerable evidence that Jackie made up her story, invented imaginary assailants, and lied to her friends about what had (and hadn't) happened. This would have been clear to Rolling Stone if either Erdely or her editors had fact-checked the article in accordance with the magazine's internal policies.

Elias, Hadford, and Fowler aren't the only ones going after Rolling Stone; UVA Associate Dean Nicole Eramo has also filed suit.

Perhaps in reaction to the lawsuits, Rolling Stone's long-serving managing editor, Will Dana, announced his resignation from the magazine. According to The New York Times:

Mr. Dana, whose planned last day is Aug. 7, is not leaving for another job, and his successor has not been named. When asked if the departure was linked to the controversy over the discredited article, Rolling Stone's publisher, Jann S. Wenner, said, via a spokeswoman, that "many factors go into a decision like this."

Whether or not the lawsuits are merited, it seems obvious to me that Rolling Stone has not done an adequate job apologizing to the casualties of its reckless journalism and disciplining the responsible parties. (Instead, Wenner has assigned most of the blame to Jackie, which is not entirely fair—it was the magazine's job to vet her story.) If Dana's departure is an attempt at atonement, it is long overdue.

Related: I was an early doubter of Erdely's story, and won a Southern California Journalism Award for my take on the subject.