Half a year after Rolling Stone published its controversial (and later retracted) article "A Rape on Campus," three University of Virginia graduates are suing the magazine, Wenner Media, and journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely. Seeking damages for defamation and infliction of emotional distress, the three Phi Kappa Psi fraternity members claim that the magazine was negligent in publishing the article, which was written by Erdely and published in December 2014. Bustle has reached out to the law firm that is representing Rolling Stone for comment.
The article detailed an alleged gang rape of a woman named "Jackie" at the fraternity, but was soon questioned over a lack of journalistic ethics and quality. The magazine took down the article and apologized. The fraternity members who are suing, all of whom graduated in 2013, were never named in the published article. But they claim that they were easily identified, and that they suffered both online and in-person attacks from family and friends. According to Reuters, the lawsuit reads:
Plaintiffs have each suffered emotional turmoil, were entirely unable to focus at work and in school following release of the article and are still being questioned often about the article's accusations.
The three plaintiffs are fraternity members George Elias IV, Stephen Hadford, and Ross Fowler. Reuters reports that Elias actually lived in the room where the alleged crime took place, and the lawsuit claims, "Upon release of the article, family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers and reporters easily matched Plaintiff as one of the alleged attackers and, among other things, interrogated him, humiliated him, and scolded him."
It's not the first lawsuit Rolling Stone has faced for the debacle, and it likely won't be the last. In April, the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity organization announced that it would sue for the "reckless" reporting performed in researching the article, which "erroneously accused Phi Kappa Psi of crimes its members did not commit." And a month later, Nicole Eramo, the UVA dean of students quoted throughout the article, filed a nearly $8 million lawsuit with similar claims of defamation. In a statement provided by Eramo's lawyer, she said:
I am filing this defamation lawsuit to set the record straight — and to hold the magazine and the author of the article accountable for their actions in a way they have refused to do themselves.
The Columbia Journalism Review investigation into what Rolling Stone did wrong in its "A Rape on Campus" story denounced the article as a complete "journalistic failure."
Images: Getty Images (1); Rolling Stone (1)