Send in the lawyers
When Rolling Stone inflicted its UVA “gang rape” fantasy on the American people, it didn’t just damage its own reputation; it took down members of the targeted fraternity and university communities down with it.
As I reported on yesterday, there will be no consequences for the RS staff members who contributed to the now-redacted article. No one has resigned in disgrace, or been given 15 minutes to clear out their office. It’s business as usual at Rolling Stone—at least for now.
Spokesmen representing Phi Kappa Psi fraternity have made a statement indicating that the organization will “pursue all available legal action” against Rolling Stone.
From CNN Money:
“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.
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.”
That’s all we know at this point; we don’t have a timeline, or a specific list of action items, or named plaintiffs and defendants. All we know is that a lawsuit is looming on the horizon.
Anyone else salivating? I know I am.
That being said, this course of action will be more complicated than it appears to be. According to law professor Eugene Volokh, the Columbia report could provide evidence of negligence on the part of RS and its staff members, but that’s where the easy part ends.
UVA isn’t going to be the one to sue, because government agencies can’t sue for libel. That leaves the fraternity and its members, and individual university employees. We could see lawsuits brought by those individually alleged in the RS article to be rapists, the UVA Phi Psis as a group, Phi Kappa Psi fraternity as an organization, or the university officials and/or students named in the article.
I’m already tired. And excited.
I’m not a chum-in-the-water kind of attorney. I don’t normally get excited over the prospect of a juicy lawsuit—but the day has come. As I said above, this story didn’t just harm the image of Rolling Stone and its employees. It damaged the reputations and seriously disrupted the lives of innocent people, because its author was in pursuit of a blistering take on a particular narrative about campus sexual assault.
This lawsuit, unlike the hell its subjects inflicted, is well-earned, and I can’t wait to see what form it takes.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.