More evidence that bias drove Rolling Stone’s awful story on rape at the University of Virginia: In an interview with CNN’s Brian Stelter, Alex Pinkleton, a rape survivor and U-Va. student, said of Sabrina Rubin Erdely, who wrote “A Rape on Campus“: “I think she had her heart in the right place. She wanted to bring light to this issue and it is a prevalent issue at U-Va. and on campuses across the nation,” said Pinkleton when asked to comment on Erdely. “However, she did have an agenda and part of that agenda was showing how monstrous fraternities themselves as an institution are and blaming the administration for a lot of these sexual assaults.”
In the interview with Stelter, Pinkleton described the circumstances of her own sexual assault, in which she “had drank a lot of alcohol that night, was unconscious and came to with him on top of me,” said Pinkleton, referring to the perpetrator of her assault. As she discussed the incident with Erdely before the publication of “A Rape on Campus,” Pinkleton noticed a certain tendency in the reporter: “When she asked about my own assault, she kept asking, you know, ‘Did he feed you the drinks, was he keeping tabs of the drinks that night?’ ” Pinkleton told Stelter. “And he wasn’t and that’s something that I had to keep saying over and over again. And I felt that she wasn’t satisfied with my perpetrator as someone who wasn’t clearly monstrous.”
That very reportorial attitude popped up in Erdely’s own interviews about the story, before it collapsed under the scrutiny of the Metro section of The Washington Post. In comments to a Slate podcast, Erdely was asked about the alleged perpetrators of a September 2012 seven-man gang rape of a then-freshman named Jackie at the Phi Kappa Psi house. She responded, “I don’t want to say much about them as individuals but I’ll just say that this particular fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi — it’s really emblematic in a lot of ways of sort of like elitist fraternity culture.”
Fraternities were important to Erdely, as Pinkleton, a friend of Jackie’s, told Stelter: “I didn’t like that it seemed like she was looking for a story that had to be at a fraternity,” she said. As “A Rape on Campus” noted, fraternity men are three times more likely to rape than non-fraternity men, according to studies.
Even so, Pinkleton said, “As a reporter, you can’t be like an advocate and support a story and listen to it and think everything is true and then report on it without trying to figure out if it’s true. My job as an advocate [for sexual assault survivors] was never to question Jackie’s story or question the details, because I didn’t need to. But the role that she’s in as a reporter, she needed to do that.”