Fraternity sues Rolling Stone for $25 million over rape report

The False reporting on a gang rape drew almost three million unique visitors to the RollingStone.com website and was widely shared on social media

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A University of Virginia fraternity filed a lawsuit on Monday against Rolling Stone magazine, claiming its 2014 article on gang rape was “a colossal act of defamatory falsehood.”

The suit by the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity seeks $25 million in damages from Rolling Stone magazine and contributing editor Sabrina Erdely, saying the article was published “with reckless disregard for the truth.”

The lawsuit filed in state court comes one year after the article depicting a brutal gang rape shocked readers around the United States before the magazine retracted the story and apologized for journalistic lapses.

“The fraternity chapter and its student and alumni members suffered extreme damage to their reputations in the aftermath of the article’s publication and continue to suffer despite the ultimate unraveling of the story,” the fraternity said in a statement.

“Innocent brothers were besieged in their residence, physically threatened, protested against and vilified by unknown assailants, fellow students and the university community. Impacts of the article were felt well beyond the University of Virginia and Charlottesville.”

It noted that the story drew almost three million unique visitors to the RollingStone.com website, and was shared on social media hundreds of thousands times.

“For a time, ‘A Rape on Campus’ was the biggest news story in America. The chapter and its members became the symbol for rape on college campuses,” the statement said.

The article “was entirely false and a complete fabrication” according to the lawsuit, based on an unreliable source and lacking verification from other sources.

It said Rolling Stone “published a devastating story it knowingly failed to verify, in reckless disregard for truth or falsity, or the essential safety, dignity, and welfare of the organization or of those lives it was willing to crush.”

Rolling Stone retracted the story and issued an apology on the heels of a Columbia University inquiry, which it commissioned after doubts emerged over the credibility of the sourcing.

Published by the Columbia Journalism Review’s website, the 12,000-word investigation found lapses in journalism standards at Rolling Stone from start to finish of the purported expose.

Rolling Stone did not immediately respond to requests for comment.