According to CNN Money, the University of Virginia chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, whose members were accused of gang-raping a female student in a now-discredited Rolling Stone story, plans to pursue “all available legal action” against the magazine.
The fraternity issued a statement denouncing the “reckless reporting by Rolling Stone magazine,” but has not yet determined when any such legal action will be filed in court.
On Sunday, Rolling Stone released a review, conducted by a team from the Columbia Journalism School, of how writer Sabrina Erdely and the magazine’s editors could have failed to notice discrepancies in the account of “Jackie,” the student who claimed to have been raped in 2012. The report concluded that Erdely and her editors did not adequately contact the members of the fraternity and ask them to review the claims made against them. If they had done so, the report’s authors added, these discrepancies would have forced the editors to more closely scrutinize Jackie’s story.
After the report was made public, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh published an extensive review in The Washington Post of whether the fraternity or its individual members could sue Rolling Stone for libel. Volokh writes that the report clearly indicates that Rolling Stone editors were “negligent” — which is a sufficient prerequisite for a libel lawsuit in some cases — but that because individual fraternity members were only identified by pseudonyms or nicknames, they would have to prove that the nicknames and personal details were specific enough to identify them in order to have standing. Whether the fraternity as an institution could sue for the article’s apparent suggestion that the assaults was an initiation ritual is an open question.