On Friday Ed Morrissey covered the ongoing trial involving Rolling Stone and Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of the now completely discredited “Rape on Campus” story. The author’s explanation for how her story about “Jackie” fell apart indeed seemed to be a tragedy of errors since there was nothing comical about it. At the end of his piece, Ed noted that Erdely’s testimony would continue into the weekend but we probably shouldn’t be expecting any more bombshells. I’m not sure what meets that definition these days, but there was at least one highly revealing moment yesterday which dealt with a late night phone call. It was at that moment when the author apparently realized that her star subject was not who she seemed to be. (Washington Post)
Did he rape you at the Phi Psi house?
Did he orchestrate your rape?
Did it happen the way you told me it did?
Erdeley said she then told Jackie on the phone that she wanted to work with her to look up additional information about her alleged attacker online. They searched but were unable to find anything. For Erdely, the doubts quickly mushroomed.
Keep in mind that these are all questions which any legitimate reporter dealing with such an explosive subject should have asked and verified independently before the first word of it ever made it to publication. This lawsuit deals with damages done to University of Virginia dean Nicole Eramo rather than the fraternity, the alleged rapists or anyone else, but all the facts relating to the apparently fictional event play directly into how Eramo was treated by the magazine. Remember that the very specific story being told by Jackie included all sorts of details about the location where the gang rape supposedly took place, including which floor the room was on, the furnishings inside of it and all the rest. By the time that phone call took place the reporter had finally gotten the supposed victim to say that it didn’t happen at the fraternity after all.
While Jackie was continuing to insist that the rest of the story was true, this led the the reporter to join her in an online search for more information on the central figure who supposedly orchestrated the attack. They were unable to find anything which even supported the existence of such a person, say nothing of their alleged culpability in all of this. How on Earth did that story make it to press without anyone thinking to ask if the villain in the tale was fictional or not?
Erdely’s career in journalism appears to be over, but the damage she left behind is very real. And she wasn’t alone in the process which ended in the publication of the story which turned dean Eramo into a heartless monster in the eyes of the public. The testimony isn’t over yet so we’re left to wonder how many more phone calls and notes the author will remember. At this rate there may be a very expensive lesson barreling down the road toward Rolling Stone and it may serve as one more reminder as to why they should probably stick to music reviews.