RICHMOND, Va. — Rolling Stone magazine on Sunday night apologized and officially retracted its discredited article about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia, and an independent review said the article may cast doubt on future rape accusations.
The magazine took the action after receiving a report from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism on the editorial process that led to the article. The report called the article a “story of journalistic failure that was avoidable.”
The article focused on a student identified only as “Jackie,” who said she was raped by seven men at a fraternity house. It also described a hidden culture of sexual violence fueled by binge drinking at one of the nation’s most highly regarded public universities.
Rolling Stone asked for the independent review after other news media organizations exposed flaws in the November 2012 article, titled “A Rape on Campus.” By Dec. 5, Rolling Stone apologized and acknowledged discrepancies in the article.
A four-month police investigation produced no evidence that the attack occurred. Jackie refused to co-operate in the police investigation.
“We would like to apologize to our readers and to all of those who were damaged by our story and the ensuing fallout, including members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and UVA administrators and students,” the magazine’s managing editor, Will Dana, wrote on the publication’s website.
“Sexual assault is a serious problem on college campuses, and it is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward. It saddens us to think that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings.”
The article’s author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, did not answer a telephone call from The Associated Press.
Despite its flaws, the article heightened scrutiny of campus sexual assaults amid a campaign by President Barack Obama. The University of Virginia had already been on the Department of Education’s list of 55 colleges under investigation for their handling of sex assault violations.
The article also prompted university President Teresa Sullivan to temporarily suspend fraternity and sorority social events. Fraternities later agreed to ban kegs, hire security workers and keep at least three fraternity members sober at each event.
The fraternity has called the article defamatory and said it was exploring its legal options.
“These false accusations have been extremely damaging to our entire organization, but we can only begin to imagine the setback this must have dealt to survivors of sexual assault,” said Stephen Scipione, president of the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, after the Charlottesville police suspended their investigation.