Recall Rolling Stone‘s article by Sabrina Rubin Erdely that accused a fraternity at the University of Virginia and the university at large of fostering a climate of rape. The article went on explicitly to accuse the fraternity’s members of participating in the gang rape of a particular woman—a woman whose rape never occurred—and it smeared (now ex-; she’s still employed by UVA, but in a different and lesser capacity) Dean of Students Nicole Eramo as being indifferent to the purported victim’s plight.
Eramo sued Rolling Stone and Erdeley in Federal court for defamation—a charge in which, because of her celebrity status, a status manufactured by Rolling Stone and their press brethren through their publication of the article and repeated of summaries of it, Eramo would have to prove actual malice by the magazine and Erdeley, not that they were merely extremely negligent. Last Friday, the jury in the case agreed with Eramo.
[T]he…jury found that the magazine and one of its journalists, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, was liable for defaming Eramo….
The jury awarded Eramo $2 million from Erdely and $1 million from Rolling Stone….
Eramo’s attorney noted the vindication:
This was nothing short of a complete repudiation of Rolling Stone and Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s flawed journalism[.]
But only a measure of justice. Eramo described the long-term destruction inflicted on her during her testimony.
Eramo said that U-Va. reassigned her from her duties counseling students on matters involving sexual violence and that she felt adrift on the campus she had called home for 20 years. Eramo said that she received hundreds of vitriolic email messages….
[Eramo said that] she faced threats, lost her ability to pursue her life’s work as a sexual assault prevention advocate, and took a major hit to her professional credibility.
The money award is good in the sense that it sends a clear signal to a dishonest press and the “journalists” within it. However, money cannot repair the damage the smear has done.
Again, only a measure of justice: UVA promptly on the accusation, but without any investigation of its own and long before the police completed their own investigation, suspended not just the accused fraternity but all fraternities associated with the university. Further, the university has done nothing since to make those fraternities whole from the school’s smearing suspension.
Given the magazine’s and the pseudo-journalist’s evident disdain for the truth and their willingness to publish anything at all in order to make a sale, it’s an amazement to me that anyone anymore would pay money to read their…stuff.
The smeared fraternity has its own lawsuit in progress.