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Phi Kappa Psi Plans to Sue Rolling Stone Over Discredited UVA Rape Article

Rolling Stone has formally retracted its debunked story.
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/ Source: NBC News

The fraternity at the center of a discredited Rolling Stone article about an alleged gang rape at University of Virginia "plans to pursue all available legal action against the magazine," the Virginia chapter of Phi Kappa Psi said in a statement. 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 report by Columbia University's School of Journalism demonstrates the reckless nature in which Rolling Stone researched and failed to verify facts in its article that erroneously accused Phi Kappa Psi of crimes its members did not commit," Stephen Scipione, president of the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, said in the statement.

"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," Scipione said. "If Rolling Stone wants to play a real role in addressing this problem, it's time to get serious."

Rolling Stone’s managing editor, Will Dana, said in a statement 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.

The article, written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely and published online in November, detailed a brutal gang rape of a UVA student referred to as "Jackie" at the school's Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. The article sparked outrage and 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.

The Columbia report found that the errors made in the article stemmed from Rolling Stone’s failure to reach out to the subject’s friends and identify the alleged attackers. The review also found that Phi Kappa Psi wasn’t given an adequate chance to respond.

Erdely said in a statement Sunday night that reading the report was a “brutal and humbling experience.”

“I allowed my concern for Jackie’s well-being, my fear of re-traumatizing her, and my confidence in her credibility to take the place of more questioning and more facts,” Erdely said.

At a news conference Monday, Columbia Journalism School Dean Steve Coll said those who conducted the investigation into the story “disagree with any suggestion that this was Jackie’s fault.”

“This was a failure of methodology,” he said. “And this wasn’t the subject’s fault.”


— Daniel Arkin and Elisha Fieldstadt