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Rolling Stone Makes Big Change to Its Apology About UVA Rape Story

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - DECEMBER 6: The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house is seen on the University of Virginia campus on December 6, 2014 in Charlottesville, Virginia. On Friday, Rolling Stone magazine issued an apology for discrepencies that were published in an article regarding the alleged gang rape of a University of Virginia student by members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. (Jay Paul/Getty Images)

Rolling Stone has changed its apology note to readers about its University of Virginia campus rape story, removing text that had seemed like the magazine was blaming the alleged victim for its heavily criticized report.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - DECEMBER 6: The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house is seen on the University of Virginia campus on December 6, 2014 in Charlottesville, Virginia. On Friday, Rolling Stone magazine issued an apology for discrepencies that were published in an article regarding the alleged gang rape of a University of Virginia student by members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. (Jay Paul/Getty Images) The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house is seen on the University of Virginia campus, Dec. 6, 2014 in Charlottesville, Va. (Jay Paul/Getty Images)

The original three-paragraph note from managing editor Will Dana on Friday contained the sentence: "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."

Now, the note has expanded to four paragraphs and the line, "our trust in her was misplaced," is gone. The first part of the original sentence now attributes the "new information" to news outlets that questioned Rolling Stone's reporting: "In the face of new information reported by the Washington Post and other news outlets, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie's account."

The new version also contains the emphasis: "These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie."

The language was changed Saturday, according to BuzzFeed. The note still contains the original Dec. 5 publication date, but there is no acknowledgement of any updates or changes.

In the Nov. 19 story, "A Rape on Campus," journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely interviewed Jackie, who said she was raped by seven men in a UVA fraternity house in 2012. As Rolling Stone later said, "[b]ecause of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her."

The Washington Post and others had reported on questions about Jackie's account, including by some of her own friends. The fraternity at the center of the story, Phi Kappa Psi, then said it did not host a party on the night the alleged attack took place, and Jackie herself said she didn't know for certain whether the student she said led her into the room to be assaulted was actually a Phi Psi member.

On Friday, two and a half weeks after the story was first published, Rolling Stone's note to readers appeared.

Many observers seized on Rolling Stone's original wording about misplacing trust in Jackie, including the Post's Erik Wemple, who called it a "misogynistic, victim-blaming line." MSNBC host Chris Hayes also criticized Rolling Stone for "trying to throw your source under the bus," tweeting, "This is on you, not her."

The updated note now reads in full:

Last month, Rolling Stone published a story entitled A Rape on Campus which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie during a party at a University of Virginia fraternity house, the University’s failure to respond to this alleged assault – and the school's troubling history of indifference to many other instances of alleged sexual assaults. The story generated worldwide headlines and much soul-searching at UVA. University president Teresa Sullivan promised a full investigation and also to examine the way the school investigates sexual assault allegations.

Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man who she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men who she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Erdely reported the story, Jackie said or did nothing that made her, or Rolling Stone's editors and fact-checkers, question her credibility. Jackie’s friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported her account. She had spoken of the assault in campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of Phi Psi, the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn’t confirm or deny her story but that they had questions about the evidence.

In the face of new information reported by the Washington Post and other news outlets, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie's account. The fraternity has issued a formal statement denying the assault and asserting that there was no "date function or formal event" on the night in question. Jackie herself is now unsure if the man she says lured her into the room where the rape occurred, identified in the story, as "Drew," was a Phi Psi brother. According to the Washington Post, "Drew" actually belongs to a different fraternity and when contacted by the paper, he denied knowing Jackie. Jackie told Rolling Stone that after she was assaulted, she ran into "Drew" at a UVA pool where they both worked as lifeguards. In its statement, the Phi Psi says none of its members worked at the pool in the fall of 2012. A friend of Jackie’s (who we were told would not speak to Rolling Stone) told the Washington Post that he found Jackie that night a mile from the school's fraternities. She did not appear to be "physically injured at the time" but was shaken. She told him that that she had been forced to have oral sex with a group of men at a fraternity party, but he does not remember her identifying a specific house. Other friends of Jackie’s told the Washington Post that they now have doubts about her narrative, but Jackie told the Washington Post that she firmly stands by the account she gave to Erdely.

We published the article with the firm belief that it was accurate. Given all of these reports, however, we have come to the conclusion that we were mistaken in honoring Jackie's request to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. In trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault, we made a judgment – the kind of judgment reporters and editors make every day. We should have not made this agreement with Jackie and we should have worked harder to convince her that the truth would have been better served by getting the other side of the story. These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie. We apologize to anyone who was affected by the story and we will continue to investigate the events of that evening.

Will Dana

Managing Editor

Here's the original text:

Last month, Rolling Stone published a story titled “A Rape on Campus” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie at a University of Virginia fraternity house; the university’s failure to respond to this alleged assault – and the school’s troubling history of indifference to many other instances of alleged sexual assaults. The story generated worldwide headlines and much soul-searching at UVA. University president Teresa Sullivan promised a full investigation and also to examine the way the school responds to sexual assault allegations.

Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Erdely spent reporting the story, Jackie neither said nor did anything that made Erdely, or Rolling Stone’s editors and fact-checkers, question Jackie’s credibility. Her friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported Jackie’s account. She had spoken of the assault in campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn’t confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence.

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. 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. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.

Will Dana

Managing Editor

One last thing…
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