The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia said Monday that it is moving forward with a possible lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine in the wake of the now-retracted “Rape on Campus” article.
“After 130 days of living under a cloud of suspicion as a result of reckless reporting by Rolling Stone magazine, today the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi announced plans to pursue all available legal action against the magazine,” the fraternity said in a statement.
The fraternity hasn’t made a formal decision yet on when to file a suit, a spokesman said.
Rolling Stone declined to comment on the frat’s statement.
Its announcement came one day after the magazine published a damning external review of the editorial processes that resulted in the article’s publication.
The Rolling Stone article had alleged that a freshman student named Jackie had been gang raped during a Phi Kappa Psi frat party in September 2012.
But soon after the article was printed last November, contradictions and discrepancies in Jackie’s account emerged. The frat came out and denied that a party even took place on the night of the alleged attack.
In December, the magazine apologized for the article and asked the Columbia University Journalism school to review what went wrong.
One of Columbia’s main conclusions was that the writer of the article, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, and her editors should have been much more forthcoming in her contacts with Phi Kappa Psi.
If Rolling Stone “had given the fraternity a chance to review the allegations in detail, the factual discrepancies the fraternity would likely have reported might have led Erdely and her
editors to try to verify Jackie’s account more thoroughly,” the review said.
According to the review, “none of the editors ever discussed with Erdely” whether frat officials had been given enough detail about the charges. She “never raised the subject with her editors.”
In a statement on Monday, Stephen Scipione, the president of the Phi Kappa Psi chapter, said “this type of reporting serves as a sad example of a serious decline of journalistic standards.”
“A lot of people threaten defamation and don’t follow through with a lawsuit,” HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson said on CNN on Monday afternoon. “In this case, it’s hard to argue that there were not tangible, recognizable reputational injuries. This story went viral. Everyone was talking about it.”