Rolling Stone magazine says it has found apparent discrepancies in the story of a University of Virginia student featured in a November article saying the school's administrators and students keep sexual assaults quiet.
In a note to readers, the magazine said it regrets not contacting the woman's alleged attackers and apologized to "anyone who was affected by the story."
The article detailed the alleged 2012 gang rape of "Jackie" by Phi Kappa Psi fraternity brothers and subsequent claims of a cover-up. The article suggested too many people at the university put the reputations of theirselves and the university above victims of sex crimes.
A letter from managing editor Will Dana to Rolling Stone readers says there are apparent discrepancies in Jackie's story. Her alleged assaulters were not contacted at Jackie's request, as she said she feared retribution.
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"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," the letter read. "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 offered further explanation on Twitter shortly before 5 p.m. Friday.
1/I can’t explain the discrepancies between Jackie’s account and the counter statements made by Phi Psi.— Will Dana (@wdana) December 5, 2014
2/The fact that there is a story that appears in Rolling Stone in which I don’t have complete confidence is deeply unsettling to me.— Will Dana (@wdana) December 5, 2014
3/We made a judgment – the kind of judgement reporters and editors make every day. And in this case, our judgement was wrong.— Will Dana (@wdana) December 5, 2014
4/ We should have either not made this agreement with Jackie…— Will Dana (@wdana) December 5, 2014
5/…or worked harder to convince her that the truth would have been better served by getting the other side of the story.— Will Dana (@wdana) December 5, 2014
6/ That failure is on us – not on her.— Will Dana (@wdana) December 5, 2014
Rolling Stone did not say what new information prompted the magazine to back away from the story.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring expressed concern with the magazine's apology.
"It is deeply troubling that Rolling Stone magazine is now publicly walking away from its central storyline in its bombshell report on the University of Virginia without correcting what errors its editors believe were made," his statement read.
School President Teresa Sullivan asked police to investigate the alleged rape.
"Our purpose is to find the truth in any matter and that's what we are looking for here," read a statement from Charlottesville Police Capt. Gary Pleasants. "These articles do not change our focus moving forward."
A statement from the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi says the fraternity's cooperation with Charlottesville Police strengthened its doubts about the article.
Jackie said she was invited to a frat party by a member who she worked with as lifeguards at the university pool, but the 2012 roster of employees does not include a member of Phi Kappa Psi, according to the fraternity. The frat also denied having an event the weekend mentioned in Jackie's account.
"We have no knowledge of these alleged acts being committed at our house or by our members," the statement read. "Anyone who commits any form of sexual assault, wherever or whenever, should be identified and brought to justice."
The article prompted protests on campus, vandalism at Phi Kappa Psi, the suspension of Greek activity on campus and an emergency meeting of the Board of Visitors.
The university said it will continue to focus on campus sexual violence.
"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," Sullivan said in a statement. "Today’s news must not alter this focus."
Some advocates expressed anger that the magazine blamed the victim, rather than its own journalistic practices, and that efforts to prevent sexual violence could get waylaid as a result.
"It's an advocate's job to believe and support, never to play investigator or adjudicator," said Emily Renda, U.Va.'s project coordinator for sexual misconduct, policy and prevention, and a member of the governor's Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence.
Renda, who knows Jackie and also was interviewed for the Rolling Stone article, said, "I didn't and don't question Jackie's credibility because that is not my role. Rolling Stone played adjudicator, investigator and advocate -- and did a slipshod job at that."
Renda, a May graduate who said she was raped her freshman year at the school, added that as a result of this, "Jackie suffers, the young men in Phi Kappa Psi suffered, and survivors everywhere can unfairly be called into question.
"We still have to build a culture of support and reporting so that justice can be done right and survivors can find healing. Rolling Stone has run roughshod over years of advocacy, over fairness and justice, and ultimately, over Jackie."
Even before Friday's apology, some students said they found it hard to believe Jackie's characterization of the response of her friends, who she said discouraged her from reporting the crime.
"I couldn't comprehend that behavior,'' said Grant Fowler, a second-year student from Burke, Virginia. "No one I know would do that. I couldn't understand how you could care so little about a person you call a friend."
Fowler said he found the story to be an exaggerated portrayal of the campus.
"The student body is not the Greek scene," he said last week. "The student body is supportive of victims. The student body is not as harsh as portrayed by the article."