Rolling Stone apologized for the lousy journalism that allowed the UVa frat gang rape story to reach print.
Rolling Stone magazine has updated the “note to readers” that it posted Friday in light of a Washington Post report casting doubts on its article “A Rape on Campus” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, which told the horrific story of a University of Virginia freshman named Jackie suffering a seven-man gang rape in 2012 at the prestigious Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. “We apologize to anyone who was affected by the story and we will continue to investigate the events of that evening,” reads the last line of the note.
The new version makes one significant deletion. Gone is this line: “In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.” That sentiment aligned with an ugly history of blaming rape victims for their trauma and for shaming them when their stories occasionally don’t pan out. Now, the key line reads, “These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie.”
That’s not only more sensitive, but more accurate as well.
Yes, there was failure on the part of everybody involved at Rolling Stone. But let’s be honest – they were also incorrect to take Jackie’s account at face value. Indeed, that was one of their failings – engaging in a credulous acceptance of outrageous claims on the grounds because we are all supposed to “believe the victim”. Good journalism would have involved asking questions and verifying facts – but that went against the liberal mantra of “believe the victim” because “rape culture”. Good journalism would have involved questioning the students who were named and accused to get their side of the story rather than placing unquestioned trust in the accuser – but in the liberal mindset that pervades the editorial offices of Rolling Stone, doing so would make one a “rape apologist”. When faced with a choice between being good liberals or good journalists, Rolling Stone chose to be good liberals.
So yes, Rolling Stone made mistakes. But one of those mistakes was to place trust in someone whose story was so full of holes that even the supposed corroborating witnesses found the story being told to – and by – Rolling Stone to be something other than the truth as they knew it. Their trust in Jackie was therefore misplaced – but the mistake was entirely Rolling Stone’s. But that does not absolve Jackie of telling a story that now appears to be substantially untrue.