Rolling Stone Loses Defamation Case In University Of Virginia Rape Story
November 4, 2016 at 11:47 AM (PT)
A VIRGINIA federal jury ruled that ROLLING STONE's controversial article about the gang rape of a freshman at the UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA was indeed defamatory. The school's former associate dean NICOLE ERAMO had sued the magazine for casting her as the "chief villain" in its since-retracted article.
The verdict that ROLLING STONE, parent company WENNER MEDIA and writer SABRINA RUDIN were liable on multiple libel claims was announced after a two-week trial. The decision on damages will come later.
ERAMO sued the magazine in MAY 2015, claiming the publication cast her as the "chief villain," who "silenced" the alleged victim JACKIE or "discouraged" her from reporting her alleged gang rape to the police. She was seeking $7.5 million in damages.
The story, "A Rape on Campus," was published in the magazine's NOVEMBER 19th, 2014, issue, and immediately came under fire when THE WASHINGTON POST identified discrepancies in the reporting. ROLLING STONE had to apologize for not thoroughly fact-checking it, then retracted the story in APRIL 2015 after an investigation by the COLUMBIA SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM.
Last SEPTEMBER, U.S. District Judge GLEN CONRAD allowed ERAMO to move to trial by rejecting a summary judgment bid by the publication. The decision comes just days after GAWKER settled with HULK HOGAN for $31 million in its own invasion of privacy lawsuit that bankrupted the Internet gossip site.
Here's ROLLING STONE's statement in reaction to the verdict:
"For almost 50 years, ROLLING STONE has aimed to produce journalism with the highest reporting and ethical standards, and with a strong humanistic point of view. When we published ‘A Rape on Campus’ in 2014, we were attempting to tackle the very serious and complex topic of sexual assault on college campuses, a subject that is more relevant today than ever. In our desire to present this complicated issue from the perspective of a survivor, we overlooked reporting paths and made journalistic mistakes that we are committed to never making again. We deeply regret these missteps and sincerely apologize to anyone hurt by them, including Ms. ERAMO. It is our deep hope that our failings do not deflect from the pervasive issues discussed in the piece, and that reporting on sexual assault cases ultimately results in campus policies that better protect our students. We will continue to publish stories that shine a light on the defining social, political and cultural issues of our times, and we will continue to seek the truth in every story we publish.”