5 Shocking Facts Revealed By E-mails Between UVA And Rolling Stone
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5 Shocking Facts Revealed By E-mails Between UVA And Rolling Stone

The University of Virginia released 104 pages of correspondence related to Rolling Stone’s article about rape at the University of Virginia. Almost all of the correspondence is an attempt to hash out interview times or to clarify particulars related to the process of handling claims about sexual assault.

Even so, here are the five most surprising things revealed by the emails between Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina R. Erdely, fact checker Elisabeth Garber-Paul and staff at the University of Virginia:

1) No attempt to verify “rapist’s” existence

Elisabeth Garber-Paul reached out to U-Va. on Nov. 7 to set up an appointment to fact check the story. Her questions were limited to procedures regarding sexual assault complaints. Nowhere in the correspondence did Garber-Paul ask for any type of verification of the story about “Jackie” and her claim of horrific gang-rape by a particular fraternity.

Incidentally, Garber-Paul’s work history includes the abortion activist group RH Reality Check and an internship at the progressive magazine The Nation. About the latter she said “the best part was that it introduced me to fact checking, a little part of journalism I hardly knew about and soon grew to love.” She also said:

When I’d started at The Nation, I thought it was more about checking names, dates, basic things like that. But there they teach you to tear apart an article and put it back together, re-report pieces by writers you have read and respected for years.

Garber-Paul’s last tweet is a RT of a Jezebel article that lashed out at critics of the Rolling Stone story.

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2) UVA told Erdely her facts were “objectively false”

Even though Garber-Paul at no time asked about any of the anecdotes in Erdely’s reporting, the University of Virginia repeatedly told Erdely and Garber-Paul that the facts of one case she was talking about were mistaken. Anthony Paul de Bruyn wrote to Garber-Paul, “It has been brought to our attention by a few students that Sabrina has spoken to that she is referencing an incident where a male student raped three different women and received a one-year suspension. This is in fact objectively false.” (Emphasis mine.)

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3) Erdely had other stories to use

Erdely told Emily Renda that due to length constraints, she couldn’t divulge the “full contours” of her situation. She wrote to Renda, who has testified before a Senate committee about campus rape and her assault at the University of Virginia:

(FYI I talk about your own assault in the broadest of strokes. Sadly there was no room in the article for the full contours of your story, in all its detail, which frankly could be an article unto itself. Same can be said of basically every survivor I had the honor of interviewing.)

4) Rolling Stone claimed to want to portray the story fairly

Garber-Paul’s introductory note to the University of Virginia said, “Hello! I’m a fact checker at Rolling Stone, and I’m working on Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s piece about the University of Virginia. I was wondering, would it be possible for us to speak on the phone sometime early next week? I’d like to go through some facts, details, and characterizations and make sure that the university is being represented as accurately as possible.” (Emphasis mine.)

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5) UVA wanted Erdely to speak with President Teresa Sullivan

It appears that Erdely first contacted UVA officials on Sept. 5, which means that it took her more than two months to never confirm the existence of the central perpetrator in her story.

Much of the correspondence between Rolling Stone and UVA is focused on setting up an interview time. UVA wanted the communication to come from Sullivan while Erdely wanted to speak with a lower-level administrator. This upset her. Then she became further irritated when UVA didn’t want to put her in a room with the university president alone.

Erdely email

— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) December 19, 2014

— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) December 19, 2014

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Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter at @mzhemingway
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