The fallout from last year’s Rolling Stone magazine debacle continues. In April, I wrote a blog post about how Phi Kappa Psi fraternity planned on suing Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone magazine over “A Rape On Campus.” Published last November, the lengthy article went into shocking and grotesque detail about a victim — “Jackie” — who was allegedly gang raped in 2012 by several men in the bedroom of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia during a party. The author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, implied the despicable act was part of a Phi Psi hazing ritual.
The story was eventually questioned, refuted, and ultimately debunked by the Washington Post, Charlottesville Police, and the Columbia School of Journalism Review. Ultimately, the piece was retracted, an apology was issued, and the magazine’s veteran managing editor, Will Dana, resigned.
Back in April, Phi Psi said they would hit Rolling Stone back hard. And that they did. Today Phi Psi filed a lawsuit in Virginia court against Rolling Stone and Sabrina Rubin Erdely for $25 million, according to a copy of the suit obtained by the Washington Post.
“The fraternity chapter and its student and alumni members suffered extreme damage to their reputations in the aftermath of the article’s publication and continue to suffer despite the ultimate unraveling of the story,” the Phi Psi chapter said in a statement Monday. “The article also subjected the student members and their families to danger and immense stress while jeopardizing the future existence of the chapter.”
It also adds:
The discredited article has done significant damage to the ability of the Chapter’s members to succeed in their educational pursuits, and besmirched the character of undergraduate students at the University of Virginia who did not deserve the spotlight of the media. The due process rights of college students must be respected in any investigation that commences against a student organization accused of such serious charges. The rush to judgement based upon the assertions made in the Rolling Stone article certainly disregarded such due process rights of Phi Kappa Psi’s members and other students at the University of Virginia. Phi kappa Psi is grateful to some media outlets that responsibly investigated the merits of Rolling Stone’s ‘journalism’ and shed light on the many insufficiencies in the article.
It’s worth noting this comes on top of two other lawsuits being filed against the magazine:
In July, three U-Va. alumni members of the Phi Psi fraternity filed a federal lawsuit in New York against Rolling Stone. One of the fraternity members, George Elias, wrote in the lawsuit that he lived in a second floor bedroom of the house in 2012, which led members of the U-Va. community to assume he possibly took part in the alleged gang rape.
The magazine also faces a $7.5 million federal lawsuit filed by Nicole Eramo, a U-Va. associate dean who assists sexual assault survivors on campus and who alleges that she was vilified in the Rolling Stone account.
Seems like a pretty clear-cut case. Doesn’t look like Rolling Stone can really hold any cards on this one.