The attorney representing UVA administrator Nicole Eramo gave closing arguments Tuesday in the $7.5 million lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine. The defamation lawsuit stems from the infamous “A Rape on Campus” story written by Sabrina Erdely in 2014. From the Associated Press:
Attorney Tom Clare argued Tuesday that Erdely set out from the beginning to tell a story of “institutional indifference,” brushed off statements from her sources that didn’t fit that narrative and pushed her own views about the administration onto the vulnerable women she was interviewing.
“Once they decided what the article was going to be about, it didn’t matter what the facts were,” Clare said.
Given that two years have elapsed since this story was published it’s easy to forget that it briefly became exhibit A in the progressive argument about “rape culture” on campus. Here is an early NY Times report on the reaction at UVA:
The allegation of a brutal assault at one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious public universities puts Virginia squarely in the midst of a nationwide debate about campus sexual assault and the role of fraternities, and offers the latest example of administrators scrambling to deal with issues that had often been shunted aside in the past.
“The fraternity culture has to change, but I don’t know how it would, because the fraternity culture is such a big part of life here,” said Annalise Gill, 18, a first-year student from Texas…
The Rolling Stone article detailed what appeared to be the preplanned gang rape of a student in 2012 in an upstairs room of the Phi Kappa Psi house, followed by a botched response by the administration. And it alleged that rape has long been an ugly undercurrent of the university’s social system, treated as an unfortunate byproduct of the school’s party culture whose eradication was less important than maintaining the university’s image.
The topic was impossible to avoid on campus Monday, where some students handed out yellow chrysanthemums in a wan attempt to make people feel better about their school, and news cameras were planted outside the Phi Kappa Psi house. A reporter who walked to the front door was approached by two men who identified themselves only as “Biker” and “Cookie,” and threatened to remove her if she knocked.
At that point, it wasn’t just UVA that was being accused of complicity. Anyone who cast any doubt on this story, initially, was accused of tacitly supporting violence against women. But it was all based on a lie. From the AP:
While the women Erdely interviewed — including Jackie — told her that Eramo was their fiercest advocate, Clare argued that Erdely was so invested in her preconceived storyline that she was “blind to the facts.” He argued that Erdely purposely set out to make Eramo the “villain” because she knew she was an “easy target” and couldn’t speak publicly about Jackie’s case due to federal privacy laws.
“It’s reckless, it’s cavalier and it’s intentional,” Clare said.
The defense was scheduled to offer closing arguments Tuesday afternoon.