'Rolling Stone' Says Trust In Rape Accuser 'Was Misplaced'
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Rolling Stone magazine now says it has doubts about its article on sexual assault at the University of Virginia. The story began with a graphic account of gang rape at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, but the alleged perpetrators were not questioned. The magazine now says it has lost trust in the woman who claimed that she was raped. From member station WVTF, Sandy Hausman reports.
SANDY HAUSMAN, BYLINE: The fraternity where a woman was allegedly gang raped remains boarded up, its windows broken, its members living in a hotel. But a lawyer for Phi Kappa Psi now says there was no party the night of the alleged attack and no member matches the magazine's description of the ringleader. Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely now says she never talked with the men who were accused because her source - known only as Jackie - asked her not to. Speaking to WAMU Rubin Erdely defended the premise of her story.
SABRINA RUBIN ERDELY: I interviewed many other victims of sexual assault at University of Virginia and the story they told was very consistent which is a culture that silences victims, that discourages them from reporting in the first place and when they get to the administration it sort of subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, discourages them from moving their cases forwards. So Jackie is not an isolated case.
HAUSMAN: Rolling Stone also claimed a dean at UVA told Jackie that cases of sexual assault were not reported publicly because, quote, "nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school." Reporter Rubin Erdely did not verify that remark with the dean.
ERDELY: I very much wish to speak to that dean, but unfortunately the university did not allow me any access to that dean. They were very resistant to my doing this investigation at all.
HAUSMAN: In retrospect, Rolling Stone's Managing Editor Will Dana says the magazine made the kind of judgment reporters and editors make every day and in this case our judgment was wrong. He now thinks Rolling Stone should've worked harder to convince Jackie that the truth would've been better served by getting the other side of the story.
That failure, Dana said, is on us, not her. At the university, some now worry that problems with the Rolling Stone story might derail efforts to curtail sexual assaults on campus. Stephen Margulies is a retired employee who's lived near UVA's fraternity row for most of his life.
STEPHEN MARGULIES: People with a bad attitude towards women are going to use this as an excuse to not acknowledge a problem that's real.
HAUSMAN: University President Teresa Sullivan issued a statement calling sexual violence on campus one of the most difficult and critical issues facing higher education today. She said doubts about Jackie's story must not alter this focus.
Virginia's attorney general found it deeply troubling that Rolling Stone magazine was publicly walking away from its central storyline without correcting what errors its editors believe were made. Virginian's are now left grasping for the truth, he said, but we must not let that undermine our support for survivors of sexual assault or the momentum for solutions. For NPR News, I'm Sandy Hausman in Charlottesville. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.