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Concha: Jann Wenner’s Statement on UVA Rape Story Self-Serving and Reckless

Finally, a mere 33 days after the most-poorly vetted and reckless story of the year became a celebrated cover story in Rolling Stone magazine, its publisher–Jann Wenner–finally got around to addressing the myriad of holes in it.

However, despite being in the business longer than many of you reading this column have been alive (47 years), Mr. Wenner doesn’t appear to even understand how to even write a responsible statement around a disputed story, let alone run a magazine.

Exhibit A can be found in the first two sentences of Wenner’s full statement below:

In RS 1223, Sabrina Rubin Erdely wrote about a brutal gang rape of a young woman named Jackie at a party in a University of Virginia frat house [“A Rape on Campus”]. Upon its publication, the article generated worldwide attention and praise for shining a light on the way the University of Virginia and many other colleges and universities across the nation have tried to sweep the issue of sexual assault on campus under the rug.

What a joke. As you may have noticed, Wenner doesn’t even bother to place the word “alleged” before writing about a “brutal gang rape” at UVA, as if it is still somehow fact. But the more unsettling part occurs in the very next sentence, where Wenner decides to pat his writer (Sabrina Rubin Erdely, who can be found easier than Ed Snowden these days) and himself on the back by crowing about a largely-debunked story “generating worldwide attention and praise for shining a light on the way (again, the word “allegedly” escapes the vocabulary) the University of Virginia and many other colleges and universities across the nation have tried to sweep the issue of sexual assault on campus under the rug.”

But no, Rolling Stone insists, we weren’t trying to desperately bend a narrative in the UVA case of “Jackie” to prove Wenner’s preconceived perspective or anything. Remember, Erderly didn’t even bother to talk to the accused at the frat house “Jackie” says she was assaulted at because she wanted to “honor her request” not to do so. How noble of her while potentially destroying lives and reputations in the process. And Wenner simply ignores it in his statement–along with everything else now falling into the “highly questionable” category (the fraternity says there was no party the night of the rape allegation; her date wasn’t even a member of the fraternity; Jackie’s friends who saw her afterward didn’t notice any blood or any of the injuries described in the story and aren’t even sure what parts of her story are true, etc.) and moves directly to accusing UVA without any evidence whatsoever that the institution is sweeping the issue under the rug, which is rich coming from Wenner considering his horrific handling of the massive pushback on this story to this point.

If I’m running the show in Charlottesville, my legal counsel preparing to sue Wenner and Rolling Stone for millions in damages right there alone. Because kamikaze declarations like that from Wenner–on top of the rape story–can inflict considerable damage on the university’s image and the business of admissions. Meanwhile, Erderly’s story is still up in its entirety on Rolling Stone’s website (complete with a convoluted disclaimer prior). Too many additional clicks to pass up instead of simply erring on the side of caution and taking it down altogether while an investigation is ongoing. And while all this is happening, actual victims of sexual assault suffer a huge setback.

Speaking of investigations, Wenner went on to say that he’s outsourcing the investigation of the story to Columbia University’s School of Journalism. Here’s another gem from Rolling Stone per the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple: When the investigation is complete, will Wenner post its findings in another breathless edition of Rolling Stone’s print edition, just like the original rape exclusive? Of course not. It’ll only be posted online.

After more than a month, Jann Wenner finally speaks and proceeds to step in it even further.

Maybe silence is golden after all.

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>> Follow Joe Concha on Twitter @JoeConchaTV

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