Rolling Stone Magazine has finally agreed to pay $1.65 million to a University of Virginia fraternity to “settle a defamation lawsuit.” What was the defamation lawsuit for? It turns out, back in 2014 the magazine published a story written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely titled, “A Rape on Campus.” The story was about “a woman identified only as Jackie who claimed to be raped by members of the school’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity as part of an initiation rite.” The problem with the story was that it never happened, which led Phi Kappa Psi to file a defamation lawsuit against the magazine.
When the fraternity filed the lawsuit, it claimed “the magazine knew that Jackie was not a reliable source but proceeded to publish her story without verifying all of her facts.” It argued that the “writer did not attempt to reach out to the alleged ringleader of the supposed attack or contact any others who could have debunked the story.” According to the lawsuit, “Rolling Stone and Erdely had an agenda, and they were recklessly oblivious to the harm they would cause innocent victims in their ruthless pursuit of that agenda.”
Understandably, when the story was first released it “set off a firestorm at the University of Virginia and in schools nationwide and prompted police to launch an investigation into the alleged assault.” However, after looking into the matter, a “police investigation found no evidence to back up Jackie’s account,” which lead to the article being retracted in April of 2015.
Though the Virginia Alpha Chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity had originally asked for $25 million, it released a statement saying how glad its members are that they can finally “put the ordeal behind them,” especially since it was due to go to trial later this year in October. In a statement to the Associated Press, the fraternity said:
“It has been nearly three years since we, and the entire University of Virginia community, were shocked by the now infamous article, and we are pleased to be able to close the book on that trying ordeal and its aftermath.”
When asked how the fraternity will use the settlement funds, it said it “plans to donate a significant portion…to groups that provide sexual assault awareness education, prevention training, and victim counseling services.”
So far representatives for Rolling Stone have declined to comment on the matter, “except to say the settlement had just been reached and has not yet been entered in court.”