UVA dean files defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone

Jon Stewart to Rolling Stone: This is a 'citizen's firing'
Jon Stewart to Rolling Stone: This is a 'citizen's firing'

A University of Virginia dean has sued Rolling Stone over her portrayal in the discredited story about an alleged frat house gang rape.

In her complaint, UVA associate dean of students Nicole Eramo asserts that she suffered significant professional harm from both the magazine and the author of the story, Sabrina Rubin Erdely.

Erdely's story, "A Rape on Campus," portrayed Eramo and the UVA administration as insensitive to a young woman who had allegedly been the victim of a horrific sexual assault. The story also included an unflattering photo of Eramo.

"As a woman who has dedicated her life to assisting victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse, Dean Eramo saw herself tarred in the national press as the chief architect of a conspiracy to suppress Jackie's assault in order to protect UVA's reputation," the complaint said.

The woman at the center of "A Rape on Campus" was identified only as "Jackie," and the story was told almost entirely from the alleged victim's perspective.

The story generated shock and outrage across the country immediately after it was published in November. But it quickly unraveled.

Rolling Stone retracted the story last month after Columbia Journalism School's review of the discredited story found sweeping failures in the magazine's reporting. Separately, police in Charlottesville found no evidence to support Jackie's claim that she was gang-raped at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on the UVA campus.

Despite those findings, no one at Rolling Stone was fired over the story. Erdely, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, will continue to write for the magazine.

Related: UVA dean hires attorney and blasts Rolling Stone

Eramo's lawsuit comes a little less than a month after she sent a blistering letter to Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, dismissing the magazine's apology as "too little, too late." She is being represented by Libby Locke, a Virginia-based attorney who specializes in defamation cases.

The lawsuit has been brought against Rolling Stone, Erdely and Wenner Media (the publisher of the magazine). Eramo is seeking a minimum of $7.5 million in compensatory damages.

"Erdely and Rolling Stone acted with actual malice when they published 'A Rape on Campus,'" the complaint said. "Erdely and Rolling Stone knew that Jackie was not a reliable source for truthful information about her interactions with Dean Eramo. They had serious doubts about the truth of the disparaging claims they planned to make about Dean Eramo, but intentionally violated commonly accepted journalistic norms and consciously failed to investigate sources and information that they believed would have revealed the falsity of the charges they leveled."

Rolling Stone might soon have another lawsuit to address, too. The day after Columbia's report was released, a spokesperson for Phi Kappa Psi said the fraternity planned to "pursue all available legal action" against the magazine. More than a month later, there have been no further announcements from the fraternity.

Rolling Stone and Erdely both declined to comment.

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