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The Corner

Jury Finds Rolling Stone and Sabrina Erdeley Liable in University of Virgina Defamation Case

This is big:

Rolling Stone’s explosive campus rape story — a story that featured what appears to be an entirely fictional tale of a gang rape at a fraternity — will go down in history as one of the worst cases of journalistic malpractice in modern times. A reporter in search of an explosive story found a fabulist with an agenda, and then quite literally wrote a story that was too good to check. This is what happens when ideological narrative gets ahead of the truth.

But even now, narrative triumphs. On CNN analysts are fretting that this story “gives people reason to doubt” the next sexual assault accuser. But when it comes to accusations of criminal misconduct, there is no such thing as a presumption of guilt. In other words, every charge carries with it a mandatory obligation to doubt before you impose penalties on a suspect. No one has a “right to be believed.” They have a right to file a charge, and they have the right to make their case. Neither accuser nor accused has a right to be believed. 

No one doubts that campus rapes happen. But the case for rape panic continues to unravel. Given the alleged epidemic, activists often have real trouble finding actual, credible cases where college administrators were indifferent to credible claims. So they fill the gap with exaggerations and distortions. The jury’s verdict today sends a clear signal — reckless and mendacious journalistic activism has its costs. 

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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