Rolling Stone releases statement retracting part of sexual assault article

Managing editor apologizes for inconsistencies in account of gang rape

Updated at 5:15 p.m.

Rolling Stone magazine today issued a retraction to readers, apologizing for what it cites as inconsistencies in the article published last month detailing an alleged gang rape of a then-first year, identified as Jackie, at a party at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in Sept. 2012.

Phi Kappa Psi also released a statement Friday saying an internal investigation found several inaccuracies in the Rolling Stone article.

"In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie's account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced," Managing Editor Will Dana said in a statement.

The article opened a firestorm of reactions against sexual assault and gender-based violence on Grounds, ultimately leading to the suspension of Greek life at the University through at least Jan. 9.

Several reports have since surfaced which question the accuracy of the alleged rape, with many also highlighting poor reporting practices by the article's author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely. Chief among these concerns was the decision not to contact any of Jackie's alleged attackers.

"Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie's story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her," Dana said in the statement. "We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn't confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence."

A Washington Post article published online Friday says a lawyer representing Phi Kappa Psi fraternity plans to release a statement later today indicating the house did not have a date function on Sept. 28, 2012, the date Jackie gave of her alleged attack.

The article also reports Jackie gave the full name of the man who brought her to the party — given the pseudonym "Drew" in the article — and that both Post reporters and her friends found the individual was not a member of Phi Kappa Psi and claims he never met Jackie, though he was a lifeguard at the Aquatic and Fitness Center, as Jackie is reported as saying in the Rolling Stone piece.

"We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account," Dana said. "We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story."

On Twitter, Dana said the failure lies on the magazine, not Jackie.

"We made a judgment — the kind of judgement reporters and editors make every day. and in this case, our judgement was wrong," he tweeted. "We should have either not made this agreement with Jackie or worked harder to convince her that the truth would have been better served by getting the other side of the story. That failure is on us — not her."

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Attorney General Mark Herring said he is troubled by Rolling Stone's failure to identify what errors editors believe are present in the article.

"Virginians are now left grasping for the truth, but we must not let that undermine our support for survivors of sexual assault or the momentum for solutions," he said.

Herring, who shortly after the article was published hired legal counsel to examine the University's handling of sexual assault cases in general, said it is important to sustain the dialogue surrounding sexual assault.

"While today's revelations from the magazine leave us with serious questions, we must not lose the sense of urgency that students, alumni, campus leaders, law enforcement, and many Virginians have brought to this conversation," he said.

University President Teresa Sullivan echoed these sentiments in a statement issued Friday.

"Over the past two weeks, our community has been more focused than ever on one of the most difficult and critical issues facing higher education today: sexual violence on college campuses," she said. "Today’s news must not alter this focus."

She sad the University's commitment to bettering its sexual assault policies will continue.

"We are a learning community, and we will continue our community-wide discussions and actions on these important issues in the weeks and months ahead," she said. "We remain committed to taking action as necessary to bring about meaningful cultural change in our University community."

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