Part 3—Keeping us barefoot and clueless: The story of Rolling Stone’s gang rape debacle is extremely complex.
The number of claims Rolling Stone failed to check beggars the imagination. On a journalistic basis, this rates as one of the most astonishing fails of all time.
Meanwhile, the strangeness of the alleged victim’s conduct and claims has led many observers to say that she must be “troubled,” “disturbed” or “mentally ill”—and those are among the more sympathetic observers.
(The less sympathetic call her a liar, or say she should be prosecuted.)
For ourselves, we expect more from adult journalists than we do from college students. In this case, the alleged victim was in the first month of her freshman year when she started her chain of contradictory claims, some of which seemed to violate basic laws of physics and human biology.
We expect more from adult journalists than we do from a college freshman who may, in fact, be “troubled.” Concerning the journalism in this case, one more thing seems clear:
In this instance, it seems that Rolling Stone engaged in the latest example of a growing, deeply unfortunate trend over here on the pseudo-left:
To all appearances, Rolling Stone went looking for the perfect example through which it could pretend to discuss an alleged social crisis. Failing to find a perfect example, it did the next best thing:
It seized upon a troubled young person who was telling a deeply disturbing story. Failing to fact-check her most basic claims, Rolling Stone ran with her stories.
Presto! We pseudo-liberals had our latest perfect example! Within weeks, our latest example was falling apart in a deeply embarrassing fashion.
Here’s the problem:
Over here on the pseudo-left, we refuse to be deeply embarrassed. For that reason, it fell to Lawrence O’Donnell and a panel of stooges to create a space, this Monday night, where we could stay barefoot and clueless.
Lawrence performed this task with aplomb. Let’s start with a bit of background:
On Monday afternoon, Chief Longo held his latest presser in Charlottesville. He reported the findings of a long, expensive police inquiry into Rolling Stone’s much-discussed tale.
On the front page of yesterday’s New York Times, Owen Robinson summarized those findings. Starting with its front-page headline, the Times included the basic facts Lawrence chose to deep-six:
ROBINSON (3/24/15): Police Find No Evidence of Rape at University of Virginia FraternityPolice said they had found no substantive basis to support Rolling Stone’s depiction of a horrific gang rape. Beyond that, police had found “serious discrepancies” with the alleged victim’s account.
The police here said Monday that they had found “no substantive basis” to support a Rolling Stone magazine article depicting a horrific gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house and that a four-month review had identified serious discrepancies in the account by a woman identified as Jackie, who refused to cooperate with their investigation.
After a review of records and roughly 70 interviews, Police Chief Timothy J. Longo Sr. said at a crowded news conference here, his investigators found “no evidence” that a party even took place at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity on Sept. 28, 2012, when the rape was said to have occurred. Instead, he said, there was a formal that night at the house’s sister sorority, making it highly unlikely that the fraternity would have had a party on the same night.
The previous night, Lawrence and his panel had taken a different approach. They created a space where we pseudo-liberals wouldn’t have to deal with the latest collapse of a perfect story.
Before we see how Lawrence did that, let’s think about the kinds of “serious discrepancies” which were found in the alleged victim’s various accounts. From now on, we’ll call her Jackie.
In fact, these discrepancies were virtually endless. For the sake of simplicity, let’s consider one relatively minor example, concerning a second alleged attack.
According to Jackie, the gang rape at the heart of this matter occurred on September 28, 2012. According to the Charlottesville police department’s press release about its probe, she first reported a version of this alleged attack in May 2013, after being “referred to the Dean because of poor grades.”
Her version of this alleged sexual assault would change over time. But in April 2014, Jackie reported a second assault to the UVa dean—an alleged assault in which she was deliberately hit by a bottle which shattered against her face.
A version of this second alleged attack appeared in the Rolling Stone article. Given the laws of physics and human biology, Rolling Stone’s account sounded highly improbable, if not completely impossible.
The police department investigated this claim. According to Monday’s press release, Jackie’s claims about this attack fell apart in three different ways:
CHARLOTTESVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT (3/23/15): On April 21, 2014, “Jackie” again met with Dean Eramo and reported a physical assault that was alleged to have occurred on April 6, 2014 on the University Corner in the vicinity of Elliewood Avenue.This is a relatively minor part of the overall web of claims. That said, the claims concerning this second attack seem to have fallen apart.
According to “Jackie” she was struck in the face by a glass bottle. She further advised that her roommate at the time, a nursing student, assisted her in removing glass from her (“Jackie’s”) face.
In a subsequent interview by investigators, “Jackie’s” roommate denied ever removing glass from “Jackie’s” face. Further, she described “Jackie’s” injury as an abrasion consistent with having fallen.
According to “Jackie” she stood in the parking garage on Elliewood Avenue and called her mother. Yet, a subsequent search of phone records which we believe to be “Jackie’s” failed to yield any evidence that such a call was made. In fact, no calls were made from April 5, 2014 from 8 p.m. to April 6, 2014 at 4 a.m.
Investigators reviewed a photograph of “Jackie” believed to have been taken during the week of April 11, 2014. The injury depicted in the photograph has the appearance of swelling above the right eye and an apparent abrasion on the upper cheek. In the opinion of the investigator, it did not appear consistent with being struck by a blunt object.
The same is true of Jackie’s shifting claims about the alleged gang rape itself. Because those claims are so convoluted and so baroque, we’ll let the simpler account of this second attack provide an example of what happened when the Charlottesville police investigated Jackie’s claims.
Given the weirdness of the overall story, we would guess that the alleged victim may be “disturbed” in some way. It seems likely that she got caught in a web of misstatements from which she couldn’t free herself.
Along came Rolling Stone, looking for a perfect example through which it could pretend to discuss a social problem. In an astonishing journalistic debacle, it fact-checked virtually nothing and it published all.
In a way which should be deeply embarrassing, this latest “perfect example” soon started falling apart. This Monday, the story completely collapsed.
In response, Lawrence and a panel of stooges worked to soften the blow. They created a safe space for us liberals—a place in which we could continue to hear our favorite nostrums. In such ways, the liberal world keeps getting dumbed down and undermined.
How did Lawrence create a safe space for us liberals? Consider the way he started his report, comparing his framework to that which appeared in the Times:
O’DONNELL (3/23/15): Charlottesville police announced today the suspension of a police investigation into an alleged gang rape at a fraternity house on the University of Virginia campus in 2012. The rape was first described in a Rolling Stone cover story last year, but the magazine later apologized after discrepancies in the story were revealed.To watch the whole segment, click here.
NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez has more. Gabe?
If you read the New York Times, you were told that police had “found no evidence of” the alleged gang rape. The party at which it was alleged to have occurred didn’t even seem to have happened.
If you watched Lawrence, you were told something substantially different. You were told that police were suspending their investigation into the alleged rape.
That was an accurate statement, of course. But it avoided the basic facts about what police had found.
In fairness, Lawrence said “discrepancies” had been found in Rolling Stone’s report. Incredibly, this was the sole example his viewers were given in Gutierrez’s videotaped report:
GUTIERREZ: The shocking story initially led university officials to halt all Greek activities. But soon, Jackie’s friends began to raise doubts.Gutierrez’s basic chronology is hopelessly jumbled there. In fact, Rolling Stone apologized for the “discrepancies” several months ago.
RYAN DUFFIN: She said that there were five men. The Rolling Stone article reported seven.
GUTIERREZ: Rolling Stone apologized to its readers, saying there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account. On UVA campus, some students worry the discredited story will have a chilling effect on future sexual assault victims coming forward.
That said, Gutierrez gave an absurd example of the types of “discrepancies” involved in this debacle. In fact, Jackie’s friends have contradicted her various claims in all sorts of major ways. Beyond that, her various stories are full of fundamental claims which didn’t pan out.
Indeed, the backstory to this debacle involves a non-existent suitor, “Haven Monahan,” who Jackie apparently invented in September 2012 in an attempt to make a male freshman jealous. But what example of a “discrepancy” was served to Lawrence’s viewers?
At first, Jackie reported five attackers. But Rolling Stone later said seven!
(In the original account, Jackie was forced to give oral sex to five men. In Rolling Stone, she was vaginally raped by seven men, for a period of three hours, on a bed of broken glass.)
Jackie said five; Rolling Stone said seven. It’s virtual journalistic fraud to offer that as the sole example of the “discrepancies” in this mess. That said, Gutierrez was working with some very soft soap this night.
After a very soft report, it was time for Lawrence and his panel to create a safe space for us liberals. We’d get to hear our favorite points repeated all over again!
Here’s the way the hapless O’Donnell started his panel discussion. For him, this was the main take-away from Monday’s events:
O’DONNELL: Thanks, Gabe. We’re joined now by Karen Desoto, former defense attorney and prosecutor. She’s a legal analyst for the Weekend Today show.DeSoto agreed with that idea. “Yes, absolutely,” she said.
Karen, what the police seem to be saying today, as one of the lessons of this, is go to the police early.
Police had said many things that day. Lawrence chose to walk away with an absurdly anodyne lesson.
From what he said, you might have thought the problem with this remarkable case involved Jackie’s failure to speak to police right away. In fact, she has refused to speak to the police, in any way, right to this very day.
Seven deeply vicious rapists are loose on the UVa campus. In response to this situation, this is what Jackie has done:
CHARLOTTESVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT (3/23/15): On November 20, 2014, Detective Via again attempted contact with “Jackie”. This time “Jackie” responded and agreed to meet after the Thanksgiving break.Lawrence’s viewers weren’t asked to hear that. Instead, he offered a bromide a person could offer any day of the year.
On December 2, 2014, “Jackie” came to the Charlottesville Police Department headquarters accompanied by University Dean Laurie Casteen and legal counsel from the Legal Aid and Justice Center. While there “Jackie” declined, through legal counsel, to provide a statement or answer any questions.
Since that time, despite numerous attempts to gain her cooperation, “Jackie” has provided no information whatsoever to investigators.
In an effort to access certain records pertaining to “Jackie” that would aid in our investigation, efforts were made through her legal counsel to obtain her written consent. Those efforts, too, were met with negative results.
As he continued, Lawrence threw to Professor Warren, who is defining himself as one of the most reliable hacks in the world of liberal TV. He voiced an array of talking-points designed to make us glad:
WARREN: Right now, Lawrence, there are over 100 universities that are being investigated around sexual assault charges by the Justice Department, ongoing investigations, right now. And so it raises a bigger question: What is the role of the university in creating a safe campus climate for all of its students?We’d have to call that jumbled passage a ball of confusion. That said, it involved a set of talking-points and insinuations which make all liberals glad.
I mean, you look at UVA and take sexual assault, and then Martese Johnson, who, by the way, went to my high school in Chicago, and was brutalized by, not campus police, but another law enforcement agency.
And, in this case, you don’t have campus police doing this investigation, you have Charlottesville police. That raises a larger question: What are campuses doing, or not doing, to keep all of their students safe? Why aren’t they the first place of recourse for students who in some way feel violated?
Most strikingly, we got to hear that Martese Johnson was “brutalized” by that other agency.
The investigation of that event has just started. But so what? The professor already knows what the probe is going to show—just as Lawrence once knew that Michael Brown had been a victim of first-degree murder.
Rather plainly, nothing can stop our “liberal” professors from behaving this way. They’re paid to dumb us liberals down. They’re only too happy to do it.
At this point, DeSoto jumped in again, reacting to the professor’s suggestions. What she said flew in the face of the day’s revelations:
WARREN: What are campuses doing, or not doing, to keep all of their students safe? Why aren’t they the first place of recourse for students who in some way feel violated?DeSoto voiced another one of our tribe’s favorite scripts. The universities won’t call the police because they’re running a business!
DESOTO: Well, that’s an easy answer because universities are—it’s a business. And you want people to go to your school. And moms and dads don’t want their daughters to go to school where there’s a high rape incidence, right? So you’re going to want to protect that.
You’re going to want to, maybe, cover that up because you want students to go there. So that’s part of the problem.
I mean, are you going to have campus police? Are you going to report it? So the policies and procedures that a lot of these universities are what is in question. I mean, are you going to be for the student or are you going to be for your image? And that is the huge problem here.
That may well be a problem. But in fact, that day’s report had seemed to show that UVa called in the local police three separate times in this case, starting in April 2014. Jackie refused to cooperate every time.
For the Washington Post’s report of this matter, just click here. To see Jezebel’s Anna Merlan say the same thing, just click this.
DeSoto was stating the standard point while skipping what the report had shown. At home, we liberals got to feel glad as we heard a favorite script.
There was more, but let’s quit.
Lawrence and his panel staged an awful display this night. They conveyed little sense of what had been revealed that day. Instead, they rattled a series of tribal talking-points.
Viewers were given little idea about the shape of this remarkable case, in which a young person made an assortment of claims and a group of adults at Rolling Stone staged one of the most gigantic fails in journalistic history. All in pursuit of the latest perfect example!
Lawrence’s viewers got little sense of that. They heard that Jackie said five, while Rolling Stone later said seven. Also, the universities won’t call the police, even though UVa did!
As usual, Lawrence gave us a tribal “safe space.” But what do we mean by that?
Tomorrow: Assistant professor knows best!
Friday: Our liberal conversations to nowhere