This article was originally published by jonathanturley.org
There are two separate controversies this week over rape stories that have been challenged by critics. Both stories involve leading U.S. universities. Unlike the Duke Lacrosse controversy, neither school is accused of wrongdoing. Rolling Stone magazine has apologized for shocking failures in reporting a sensational rape story where a woman named Jackie alleged that she was gang raped at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, but the Washington Post reported on discrepancies in the account, including the fact that no party was held at the fraternity on the day in question. In the meantime, Lena Dunham’s story of being raped in college has been challenged as containing discrepancies and the man who has faced the most accusations is now considering a libel lawsuit against the author and director.
The conservative website Breitbart has investigated the claims and identified what it says are clear discrepancies. The Washington Post blog has said that those discrepancies offer a solid basis for a libel action.
It is difficult to judge the merits of the claim. However, a libel lawsuit could force a response from Dunham and discovery into her account. Such an action could be based on not just libel but false light. The latter tort is defined
in Restatement (Second) of Torts, Sec. 652E as:
(1) the portrayal must be found to be “highly offensive to a reasonable person” and
(2) the actor had knowledge of or acted in reckless disregard as to the falsity of the publicized matter and the false light in which the other would be placed.
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