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University of Virginia by PBS NewsHour

Critics question why Rolling Stone reporter did not contact men accused of UVA gang rape

Last month, Rolling Stone magazine published an article detailing the gang rape of a University of Virginia freshman, Jackie, by seven men in one of the campus’ fraternity houses and the university’s failure to investigate once the attack was reported to an administrator. The piece drew the attention of national news outlets, including the PBS NewsHour and roiled the distingushed school.

In response, University President Teresa Sullivan announced Greek activity would be suspended at the school through the end of the semester. In a statement posted on the university’s website she wrote that “the wrongs described in Rolling Stone are appalling and have caused all of us to reexamine our responsibility to this community.”

Now, the reporting behind the graphic telling of Jackie’s rape by Rolling Stone contributing editor Sabrina Rubin Erdely is drawing criticism from many of the same publications that picked up the story when it first came out.

Last week, a Slate podcast host asked Erdely whether she attempted to contact the men suspected of raping Jackie.

Erdely’s indirect answer, that she spoke with the chapter president and a national fraternity spokesperson, led Slate to ask follow-up questions of Erdely and her editor. Their conclusion is that the accused men, who are never named in the article, were not contacted at Jackie’s request and Erdely and Rolling Stone staff verified Jackie’s story by talking with her friends.

Columnists at the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times and others say not contacting the men calls the veracity of the event Erdely’s story is built around into question.

Erdely and Rolling Stone have not responded to a NewsHour request for an interview. In an email to the Washington Post Erdely wrote:

“[T]he gang-rape scene that leads the story is the alarming account that Jackie — a person whom I found to be credible — told to me, told her friends, and importantly, what she told the UVA administration, which chose not to act on her allegations in any way — i.e., the overarching point of the article. THAT is the story: the culture that greeted her and so many other UVA women I interviewed, who came forward with allegations, only to be met with indifference.”

The questions raised about Erdely’s reporting haven’t eased concerns raised at the university about an overboard fraternity culture. Bloomberg reports campus faculty are calling for the fraternity ban to be extended until August.

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