From the New York Times
Founder Says Rolling Stone Erred in Retracting Rape ArticleBy HAWES SPENCER OCT. 28, 2016CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — In a defiant defense of the magazine he founded and owns, Jann S. Wenner said Rolling Stone was wrong to fully retract a discredited 2014 article about allegations of a gang rape at the University of Virginia, asserting in videotaped testimony shown on Friday that much of the material in the article was correct.“We did everything reasonable, appropriate up to the highest standards of journalism to check on this thing,” Mr. Wenner said in a libel trial in federal court here. “The one thing we didn’t do was confront Jackie’s accusers — the rapists.”
As he has previously, Mr. Wenner assigned much of the blame to the woman at the center of the article, identified as Jackie, whose account of being raped began to fall apart shortly after the article was published two years ago. Mr. Wenner said there was nothing a journalist could do “if someone is really determined to commit a fraud.”
Especially if she makes up realistic details about a gang rape on broken glass.
He said that while the magazine rightly retracted “the Jackie stuff,” he disagreed with the decision to retract the entire article in the wake of a damning report on it in April 2015 by The Columbia Journalism Review. He said the bulk of the article detailed ways that the University of Virginia could improve its treatment of victims of sexual assault.
Especially if they aren’t victims of sexual assault.
“I stand by the rest of the article: personally, professionally and on behalf of the magazine,” Mr. Wenner said.
The defamation suit, which seeks $7.5 million in damages, was brought by Nicole Eramo, a former associate dean of students at the university, who said the Rolling Stone article depicted her as the “chief villain” of the story. Mr. Wenner, like several other witnesses in this trial, which was in its 11th day, testified in video excerpts from their depositions.The plaintiffs rested their case on Friday. The trial is to resume on Monday. …At times defiant, Mr. Wenner at other times veered toward contrition, and then abruptly pulled back, as when apologizing to the plaintiff.“I’m very, very sorry,” he said, then added quickly, “Believe me, I’ve suffered as much as you have.”
Mr. Wenner testified that he knew there was a problem when he came to work the first Friday in December 2014 and found his managing editor, Will Dana, distraught.
His Night of Broken Glass story was posted on November 19, 2014, so it took him until December 5, 2014 to notice there was a problem.
The deposition also provided Mr. Wenner’s fullest account of his decision to terminate Mr. Dana and the reporter who wrote the article, Sabrina Rubin Erdely. She had just begun a $300,000 writing contract. Mr. Wenner said that the quality of their work had slipped, in part because of fallout from the article.“I cannot run the company with devastated, traumatized people,” he said.
Here’s my Taki
column from earlier this week on the trial, “Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s Malice in Blunderland.”