It was a brutal story of a premeditated gang rape at one of America’s most prestigious universities — and on Friday, the magazine that published it admitted the story might not be true.
One journalist’s coverage of the saga has been drawing particular fire.
Anna Merlan, a writer for the feminist blog Jezebel, initially defended Rolling Stone’s feature story about a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house — “A Rape on Campus” — vociferously, going so far as to call fellow journalists “idiots” when they questioned the story’s details.
She called one writer’s questions about the story “a giant ball of s**t.”
Three days after publishing that defense, Merlan was forced to confront Rolling Stone’s admission that the woman featured in the UVA story, Jackie, may not have been a credible source.
In her article on the partial retraction, Merlan apologized in her brash style:
This is really, really bad. It means, of course, that when I dismissed Richard Bradley and Robby Soave’s doubts about the story and called them ‘idiots’ for picking apart Jackie’s account, I was dead f**king wrong, and for that I sincerely apologize.
While she might have apologized in her post on Jezebel, Merlan seemed to double down on Twitter, responding with a seemingly sarcastic, “Sure you are” when Robby Soave, the Reason editor who was one of the journalists questioning Jackie’s story, said he was glad the gang rape never actually happened.
@robbysoave Sure you are.
— Anna Merlan (@annamerlan) December 5, 2014
Merlan’s tweets and apology drew quite a bit of criticism on Twitter…
@annamerlan Is gloating more in "bad taste" than calling people idiots because they questioned journalism that you wanted to believe in?
— Robert Woolley (@RandomlyBob) December 5, 2014
@annamerlan Maybe next time you wont be so quick to dismiss criticism and call those who question a narrative "idiots". But I doubt it…
— NoSlackDelta (@Demon31G) December 5, 2014
@annamerlan Reporting the story wasn't wrong. What was wrong: a) calling them idiots and b) insinuating they were dudebros with an agenda.
— John WD (@JW28) December 5, 2014
…though at least one person offered her kudos for apologizing.
— Virginia Postrel (@vpostrel) December 5, 2014
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