The defamation case against Rolling Stone magazine over their bogus “Rape on Campus” story took yet another interesting turn this week. On Saturday we saw the reporter in the case, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, tearfully recounting the moment when she saw her story falling apart. Yesterday there was a video deposition of the actual “victim” in the story which showed Jackie seemingly blaming the entire affair on the reporter, while also claiming that she’s having a lot of trouble remembering the events surrounding the alleged attack. (Washington Post)
Jackie said during the taped deposition that she stands by the account she gave Rolling Stone and The Post in 2014 and believed it was true at the time. But she also testified that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has memory loss and can no longer recall specific details.
In the taped testimony, Jackie said she felt pressured to cooperate with the reporter on the article and told friends that she no longer wanted to be included in it after learning that her alleged gang-rape would be central to the narrative.
“When Sabrina told me my experience was going to be the focal point in the article, I was uncomfortable with that,” Jackie said. “I was feeling scared and overwhelmed and unsure of what to do.”
Pardon me if I’m a bit skeptical at this point, but none of this makes any sense. If this were simply a matter of someone claiming to have PTSD (which is what Jackie is saying) and being unable to recall a traumatic, event that would be not only plausible, but expected. That’s not the case here, however. From the beginning Jackie has been crystal clear in the details she provided in her various accusations. Now, when the matter is being dragged out in a courtroom, she’s suddenly fuzzy on the details. Also, the idea that Erdely pressured her into participating seems implausible at best. If anything, Jackie seems to be pitching the idea that she’s been victimized all over again, this time by Rolling Stone.
Also, during the course of this single deposition she contradicted herself repeatedly, at one point saying that she “stood by” the facts of the event as she recalled them, but then saying that the reporting didn’t match her recollections. The memory lapses Jackie seems to be experiencing now are awfully situational. She’s being very careful to not say anything under oath which could pin her down on her original claims.
When confronted in the deposition about allegedly concocting evidence about her allegations — such as fabricating text messages from other women who she said also had been sexually assaulted at the same fraternity — she wouldn’t deny it.
“I just don’t remember any of this,” Jackie said. “It’s all very foggy. I don’t know. I don’t know.”
In one moment, Jackie was asked about a specific detail described in Rolling Stone: “Did you tell Ms. Erdely that you left the Phi Kappa Psi house at 3 a.m. splattered in blood?”
Jackie replied: “I don’t remember.”
When an actual victim of some horrific event suffers from PTSD you would expect their subconscious to begin blacking out the unpleasant parts almost immediately. In this case, Jackie’s memory seemed more than up to the task for all the months she worked with the author on the story. It’s only now that a judge is listening and testimony is being given under oath that her synapses seem to have stopped firing.
There’s plenty of blame to go around here and it can’t all be pinned on either of the key players. Sabrina Erdely and her editors obviously did a horrible job of sourcing, developing and publishing this story and the magazine definitely needs to be held to account. But the story didn’t emerge in their minds as a work of fiction printed under the guise of fact. They were spoon fed this story by Jackie and it contained damning allegations against not only the alleged “rapists” who perpetrated the attack, but the school administration for failing to protect her. Her story fell apart to the point where the police officially closed the case and declared that there was no basis to believe that the attack ever took place.
Does that make Jackie crazy or in unrepentant liar? For my money, the two possibilities are not mutually exclusive.