Jann Wenner Stands by UVA Rape Story, Says Rolling Stone Shouldn’t Have Issued Retraction

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By Heat Street Staff | 9:21 pm, October 30, 2016

A now-infamous Rolling Stone story about a gang rape at the University of Virginia that has since been widely discredited should never have been retracted, according to the magazine’s publisher and co-founder, Jann Wenner.

Testifying by video, Wenner said the story, which has led to a defamation lawsuit against the magazine, was mostly correct. His testimony was read to jurors on Friday, as the defamation trial, brought by former UVA dean Nicole Eramo, entered its tenth day.

Wenner told jurors that although the story has now been widely debunked, he still stands by it “personally, professionally, and on behalf of the magazine.”

Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the story’s author, also told jurors during her testimony that she still believes much of the article is correct, “except for anything that came from ‘Jackie,’” a student at the college who said she had been gang raped at a fraternity and the main subject of the Rolling Stone piece.

Rolling Stone issued an editor’s note on Dec. 4, 2014, in which is said that it no longer had confidence in the piece, “A Rape on Campus,” which it had published nine months earlier. Before the magazine issued the retraction, media outlets began poking holes in Jackie’s story, and an investigation by the Charlottesville, Virginia, police also cast doubt on it.

But Wenner, who during the video testimony was asked to read the magazine’s retraction—which was issued by the magazine’s managing editor—said he believes the retraction is “inaccurate,” and that 70 percent to 80 percent of the story is correct.

Wenner also insists that Rolling Stone‘s editorial practices were without sin. “We are deeply committed to factual accuracy,” Wenner said. “We did everything reasonable, appropriate, up to the highest standards.” He did, however, acknowledge that Erdely failed to corroborate Jackie’s account by contacting witnesses, namely Jackie’s friends Kathryn Hendley and Ryan Duffin,  and alleged attackers.

On Friday, lawyers for Eramo, the former UVA dean, finished presenting evidence in their $7.5 million defamation suit against the magazine, Wenner Media and Erdely. The jury will begin hearing testimony in Rolling Stone‘s defense on Monday.