Rolling Stone claims UVA vouched for now-discredited campus rape story

The magazine argues in a lawsuit that the school's administration directed Sabrina Erdely to "Jackie"

By Jenny Kutner

Published July 17, 2015 8:09PM (EDT)

Jann Wenner      (AP/Danny Moloshok/Photo montage by Salon)
Jann Wenner (AP/Danny Moloshok/Photo montage by Salon)

Rolling Stone has fired back in court over a lawsuit filed by a dean at the University of Virginia, which was at the center of the magazine's now-infamous report of an alleged gang rape released last year. Associate dean Nicole Eramo, who figures prominently in Sabrina Rubin Erdely's discredited article about a young woman named "Jackie," filed a $7.5 million libel suit against the magazine for portraying her as the "chief villain" of the story. But now, the publication claims it was actually someone in Eramo's office who led their to Jackie's story in the first place.

Responding paragraph-by-paragraph to Eramo's 76-page complaint, Rolling Stone's attorneys argue that Erdely first became aware of Jackie's account because of Emily Renda, a colleague of Eramo's in UVA's Student Affairs office. The Hollywood Reporter reports:

The letter, attached as an exhibit (and seen in full below), makes the case that Rolling Stone had "good reason" to focus on the University of Virginia because it is "one of only 12 schools selected for a compliance review by the Department of Education's Office" and "has been the scene of well-known sexual and other violent assaults."

The attorney for Rolling Stone had written that the suggestion of Jackie's discredited story is "of serious and ongoing concern," but nevertheless rejects that Eramo has a viable libel claim. The letter rejects the premise "that because Jackie's account of her gang rape is somehow flawed or false, all references concerning Dean Eramo or UVA are likewise false." [...]

"Ms. Erdely did not stumble on Jackie's story. She was directed to Jackie by Emily Renda, then working closely with Dean Eramo in the Student Affairs office the — same Emily Renda that included Jackie's account of being 'gang-raped' in her Congressional testimony about campus sexual-assault policies. There is no question that both the author and Rolling Stone had full faith in Jackie's credibility and the accuracy of its Article at the time of publication. In no small measure, Rolling Stone believed in the credibility of Jackie's story because it came with the imprimatur of UVA, and of Dean Eramo specifically."

The magazine also argues that a libel suit hinges on what editors knew at the time of publication, though it has since been confirmed that Rolling Stone practiced poor journalism (to say the least).

Jenny Kutner

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