UVA Dean Sues Rolling Stone for Defamation Over Rape Story

Associated Press

Nicole Eramo claims the falsely article depicted UVA "as an institution that is indifferent to rape on campus, and more concerned with protecting its reputation than with assisting victims of sexual assault."

The associate dean of the University of Virginia has filed a defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone in the wake of its retracted rape story.

Nicole Eramo filed the suit against the magazine and the story's author Sabrina Erdely for "the publication of the false and later discredited article" entitled "A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA."

Eramo claims the article, which was formally retracted by Rolling Stone on April 5, depicted UVA "as an institution that is indifferent to rape on campus, and more concerned with protecting its reputation than with assisting victims of sexual assault."

According to the lawsuit, Erdely's article, published in November 2014, was viewed online more than 2.7 million times.

The article describes the brutal rape of a freshman, identified as "Jackie." According to the article, Jackie was invited to a date party at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, where she was led to a pitch-black room upstairs, tackled through a glass table, punched in the face and gang raped for three hours by seven men. 

Eramo claims Erdely cast her as the "chief villain" of the story, claiming Eramo tried to persuade Jackie not to report the rape and did nothing to help her — claims Eramo describes in her lawsuit as "categorically false."

The lawsuit states these claims have had "a devastating effect on Dean Eramo's reputation." Eramo claims she saw herself "tarred in the national press as the chief architect of a conspiracy to suppress Jackie's assault in order to protect UVA's reputation." It also lists insults Eramo received in emails and letters calling her "evil," a "wretched rape apologist," and a "disgusting, worthless piece of trash."

Eramo is seeking in excess of $7.5 million in damages. Her lawsuit calls the article a "monumental hoax" and said both Erdely and Rolling Stone "acted with actual malice."

"Rolling Stone and Erdely's highly defamatory and false statements about Dean Eramo were not the result of an innocent mistake; they were the result of a wanton journalist who was more concerned with writing an article that fulfilled her preconceived narrative about the victimization of women on American college campuses, and a malicious publisher who was more concerned about selling magazines to boost the economic bottom line for its faltering magazine, than they were about discovering the truth or actual facts," claims the lawsuit.

Rolling Stone issued a formal apology about the article in December, before retracting it four months later. Reporting mistakes made by Erdely and Rolling Stone were detailed by an investigation conducted by Columbia Journalism School.
 
"The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking," the report stated. "The magazine set aside or rationalized as unnecessary essential practices of reporting that, if pursued, would likely have led the magazine's editors to reconsider publishing Jackie's narrative so prominently, if at all."
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