NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New York judge has thrown out a defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine over the magazine’s debunked article about a University of Virginia gang rape.
Federal Judge P. Kevin Castel said Tuesday the lawsuit brought by three former fraternity members cited comments that were offered as speculation and hypothesis rather than fact.
The former Phi Kappa Psi members brought the lawsuit last year. They claimed they were defamed by a November 2014 article describing in chilling detail a student’s account of being raped by seven men at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in September 2012.
An earlier investigation by Charlottesville, Virginia, police found no evidence to back up the claims of the woman identified in the article as “Jackie.”
A report from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism said the article alleging rape on the University of Virginia campus was a “story of journalistic failure that was avoidable.” The report said “the failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking.”
The report found three major flaws in the magazine’s reporting methodology: that reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely did not try to contact the three friends, instead taking Jackie’s word for it that one of them refused to talk; that she failed to give enough details of the alleged assault when she contacted the fraternity for comment, which made it difficult for the organization to investigate; and that Rolling Stone did not try hard enough to find the person Jackie accused of orchestrating the assault.
The Columbia review was undertaken at Rolling Stone’s request. It presented a broad indictment of the magazine’s handling of a story that had horrified readers, unleashed protests at the university’s Charlottesville campus and sparked a national discussion about sexual assaults on college campuses.
Rolling Stone retracted the article and the magazine apologized.
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