The Washington Post‘s dogged reporter T. Rees Shapiro is once again moving the Rolling Stone/UVA rape story significantly forward. He has an interview with the three student friends of Jackie identified in the RS piece as having advised her not to go to the cops because it would hurt her social profile.
It’s starting to look like Jackie made the whole thing up, and reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely took the bait. Read on:
They said there are mounting inconsistencies with the original narrative in the magazine. The students also expressed suspicions about Jackie’s allegations from that night. They said the name she provided as that of her date did not match anyone at the university, and U-Va. officials confirmed to The Post that no one by that name has attended the school.
Also, photographs that were texted to one of the friends showing her date that night were actually pictures depicting one of Jackie’s high school classmates in Northern Virginia. That man, now a junior at a university in another state, confirmed that the photographs were of him and said he barely knew Jackie and hasn’t been to Charlottesville for at least six years.
The friends said they were never contacted or interviewed by the pop culture magazine’s reporters or editors. Although vilified in the article as coldly indifferent to Jackie’s ordeal, the students said they cared deeply about their friend’s well-being and safety. Randall said that they made every effort to help Jackie that night.
It gets very weird after that. The Post doesn’t flat out say this, but evidence indicates that Jackie might have made up the entire gang rape story as a ploy to win over “Randall,” on whom she had a crush. Some things don’t add up yet; Randall and the others all believe something traumatic happened to her that night (Randall says if she was acting, she deserves an Oscar). But the stories she’s told about that night keep changing. And there appears to have been active deception on her part, involving a completely innocent person she only knew in passing six years earlier, and whose photo she seems to have grabbed from social media.
And by the way, this:
The Rolling Stone article also said that Randall declined to be interviewed, “citing his loyalty to his own frat.” He told The Post that he was never contacted by Rolling Stone and would have agreed to an interview.
The article’s writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, did not respond to requests for comment this week.
I guess she didn’t. Her professional reputation is being destroyed by her recklessness. Hanna Rosin comments:
Here’s the most disturbing journalistic detail to emerge from the Post‘s reporting: In the Rolling Stone story, Erdely says that she contacted Randall, but he declined to be interviewed, “citing his loyalty to his own frat.” Randall told the Post he was never contacted by Erdely and would have been happy to be interviewed.
That could mean one of two things: Jackie could have given Erdely fake contact information for Randall and then posed as Randall herself, sending the reporter that email in which he supposedly declined to participate in the story. Erdely also could have lied about trying to contact Randall. Rolling Stone might have hinted at this possibility in its “Note to Our Readers” when it referred to a “friend of Jackie’s (who we were told would not speak to Rolling Stone)” but later spoke to the Washington Post. That would take Erdely a big step beyond just being gullible and failing to check her facts, moving this piece in the direction of active wrongdoing.
When Erdely came on the DoubleX Gabfest two weeks ago to talk about her story, the first question we asked was how she settled on UVA.
Erdely said she called several universities but kept hearing typical stories about sexual violence. Then she called some activists and heard this sensational story about Jackie and gang rape. Maybe the lesson there is, if one story sounds so outlandishly different than the dozens of others you’ve heard, you shouldn’t decide to make it the centerpiece of your reporting. You should wonder why.
Question for the room: At what point in this case do journalists stop following the convention of not mentioning the names of rape victims, and instead call Jackie by her full name? If she has perpetrated a hoax, she is not entitled to privacy. I don’t think we are at that point yet. But we’re getting very close. One way or the other, Jackie is a piece of work.