UVA Fraternity in Discredited Story Plans to Pursue Legal Action Against Rolling Stone

After a report was released detailing Rolling Stone’s multiple errors in reporting and vetting its infamous story, the fraternity says it may sue

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on the University of Virginia campus on Dec. 6, 2014, in Charlottesville, Va.

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on the University of Virginia campus on Dec. 6, 2014, in Charlottesville, Va.

Photographer: Jay Paul/Getty Images

The University of Virginia chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity depicted in a recently retracted Rolling Stone story that centered on an alleged gang rape at its frat house, announced on Monday that it plans to pursue “all available legal action” against the magazine.

The fraternity’s announcement comes a day after the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism released a lengthy report on its investigation into the now discredited account of a UVA student who said she was the victim of rape at the school, in the Nov. 19, 2014, story, “A Rape on Campus.” The Columbia report, which called magazine writer Sabrina Erdely’s story “a failure of journalism,” concluded that Rolling Stone did not follow basic standards of reporting, fact-checking, or editing.

“The report by Columbia University’s School of Journalism demonstrates the reckless nature in which Rolling Stone researched and failed to verify facts in its article that erroneously accused Phi Kappa Psi of crimes its members did not commit,” Stephen Scipione, president of the University of Virginia’s Phi Kappa Psi chapter, said in a statement on Monday. “This type of reporting serves as a sad example of a serious decline of journalistic standards.”

The article described an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. Its central subject, a woman named in the story only as "Jackie," said she was raped by seven men at the school’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. The graphic piece quickly turned national attention to the school’s handling of sexual assault on campus. Yet just weeks after its publication, the story began unraveling—prompting Rolling Stone to issue an apology and ask Columbia to launch an extensive review of its editorial process.

In its statement, Phi Kappa Psi said its reputation was tarnished by the piece and that its image was unfairly used to symbolize the broader issue of campus sexual assault.

“The intense and comprehensive media coverage conveyed these falsehoods to hundreds of millions of people worldwide,” said the statement. “Clearly our fraternity and its members have been defamed, but more importantly we fear this entire episode may prompt some victims to remain in the shadows, fearful to confront their attackers.”

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