Fighting Back! Virginia Fraternity Announces Lawsuit Against Rolling Stone

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The liberal media isn’t exactly known for it’s journalistic integrity, but Rolling Stone took it to a whole new level when they published a rape accusation without bothering to research both sides. The 9,000-word story described how a student identified by her real first name, Jackie, said she endured a gang rape at the fraternity in 2012. The allegations sent shockwaves through the campus about 70 miles (113 km) from Richmond, Virginia’s capital. After the article was published in November, students demonstrated on campus and in front of the fraternity house, which was vandalized. The accusation turned out to be false, and the fraternity at the center of a discredited article is fighting back.

students protest after the Rolling Stone article was published in November

students protest after the Rolling Stone article was published in November

University of Virgina fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, said in a statement that it “plans to pursue all available legal action against the magazine.”  The announcement came a day after the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism released a report finding that the article violated “basic, even routine journalistic practice.”

The article, written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely , detailed a brutal gang rape of a UVA student at the school’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. The story caused so much controversy that it prompted the president of the university to suspend all fraternities for the rest of the semester.

 But police in Charlottesville, Virginia, have found that there was no basis to prove the incident described in the article happened at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house.

“Clearly our fraternity and its members have been defamed, but more importantly we fear this entire episode may prompt some victims to remain in the shadows, fearful to confront their attackers,” Stephen Scipione, president of the fraternity in Charlottesville, Virginia, said in a statement.

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Rolling Stone’s managing editor, Will Dana, said after the Columbia review was released Sunday night that the magazine’s staff was “committing ourselves to a series of recommendations about journalistic practices that are spelled out in the report.” Dana also said the magazine was formally retracting its debunked story about the alleged sexual assault.

Fraternity chapter spokesman Brian Ellis said he did not know what would be in the lawsuit, or when the fraternity’s lawyers would file it.  To prevail in a defamation lawsuit, the fraternity would need to first show the accusations against it in the story were false and that it suffered damages as a result, such as fewer applicants or reduced donations from alumni. If a court finds that the fraternity was a public figure, it would have to prove the magazine was reckless or acted with actual malice.

Individual fraternity members could sue as well, but the members face an additional burden of showing harm because the average reader likely could not have identified them from reading the article written by contributing editor Sabrina Rubin Erdely.

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