In November 2014, Rolling Stone magazine published a now discredited article about an incident of gang rape that they said occurred at a University of Virginia fraternity.
The 9,000-word report said seven men allegedly raped a freshman female student named Jackie in late 2012, but after it was published, it turned out the story was untrue. The magazine eventually retracted the article.
Now, the fraternity of Phi Kappa Psi has filed a defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely and publishers Wenner Media and Straight Arrow, and they’re seeking $25 million in damages.
In a statement, the fraternity said:
‘Rolling Stone published the article with reckless disregard for the truth.’
The publication of the article resulted in demonstrations and vandalism to the fraternity house, reported Reuters. The words “UVA Center for Rape Studies” was sprayed over the fraternity building. The article caused such an outrage that the university decided to ban all fraternity and sorority activities for the remainder of the semester.
See this video from Newsy for more:
After an investigation was launched, the police were unable to find any evidence corroborating Jackie’s claims. A review from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism found that Rolling Stone did not conduct “basic, even routine journalistic practice in reporting, editing, editorial supervision, and fact-checking,” reported The Hollywood Reporter.
This lawsuit is not the first to be launched against the publication over this article. Nicole Eramo, UVA associate dean, was sued in May 2015 for $7.5 million. The article depicted Eramo as the “chief villain,” and claimed she attempted to persuade Jackie from filing a complaint.
A second lawsuit was filed in July 2015 by Phi Kappa Psi members George Elias IV, Stephen Hadford, and Ross Fowler, reports The Washington Post. The plaintiffs sought a trial by jury, and at least US$75,000 for “mental anguish and severe emotional distress” as a result of the article.
Watch this video from The Wall Street Journal below for more on how Rolling Stone failed journalistic standards when publishing this story: