On Monday, the University of Virginia’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity targeted by the article “A Rape on Campus” published in the Rolling Stone threatened to sue the magazine for defamation and negatively affecting its reputation.
The announcement came after a team from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism said that the magazine was “reckless” and had not complied with journalistic ethics.
Stephen Scipione, president of the fraternity in Charlottesville, Virginia, said in a statement that the report “demonstrates the reckless nature in which Rolling Stone researched and failed to verify facts in its article that erroneously accused Phi Kappa Psi of crimes its members did not commit.”
“Clearly our fraternity and its members have been defamed, but more importantly we fear this entire episode may prompt some victims to remain in the shadows, fearful to confront their attackers.”
The story, published in November, said that a student, Jackie, was gang-raped by the fraternity on September 28, 2012.
It elicited outage among students, who held protests and demonstrations on campus and outside the fraternity house.
However, due to lack of substantive proof, facts of the story were dismissed by the police. According to BBC, police chief Timothy Longo said that did not mean “something terrible didn’t happen” to Jackie.
On Monday, the fraternity said it was still bearing the brunt of being infamously reputed as a symbol of campus sexual assault as the house’s pictures and photographs were in circulation in the media and news organizations.
According to The New York Times, Charles D. Tobin, who heads the national media practice for the law firm Holland & Knight, said that the fraternity’s social engagements and activities will have to be subjected to public scrutiny. In addition, it will also need to provide evidence as to how the allegations made in the story were “of and concerning it.”
What can further hurt Rolling Stone is that Phi Kappa Psi, if it is legally declared a public entity as opposed to a private one, will have to “establish actual malice — not that Rolling Stone committed bad journalism but that it knowingly committed a falsehood.”
“It would be colossally difficult for them to make a successful claim,” Tobin further added.
Rolling Stone refused to provide a comment on the matter.
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