Apparently a search for truth isn’t enough for Vox.com education reporter Libby Nelson, who worries over the Washington Post’s “endgame” as it tracks down more facts that contradict the blockbuster university rape story published last month by Rolling Stone.
After the latest fact-finding article over November’s error-riddled Rolling Stone rape story, Nelson went to Twitter and wondered what the newspaper’s “endgame” was for daring to look for the truth.
.@washingtonpost obviously played a vital role discrediting Rolling Stone story. But not sure what the endgame is in continuing to pursue.
— Libby Nelson (@libbyanelson) December 10, 2014
Nelson is responding to the ever-growing evidence that Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely accepted at face value a horrifying story of a gang rape on the campus of the University of Virginia. However, after initial scrutiny called its claims into question, Rolling Stone apologized for the story and began an internal review of its reporting. Since its publication, the UVA rape story has come apart as multiple claims from Jackie have been denied by other witnesses or found to be unsubstantiated
In fact, in the latest Post story–the same piece that brought Nelson’s Twitter ire–the paper found the witnesses described in the offending article and discovered that the music magazine never interviewed them at all despite that it “reported” what they said about the rape case.
But with the Post publishing all these fact-checking stories, each one of which seems to tear down the rape story farther, the Vox.com ed reporter has become worried that uncovering the truth is a bad thing.
It seems that Nelson has decided that continuing to uncover the actual facts about the story is a form of “rape shaming” the woman known as “Jackie,” the purported victim in the story.
At one point on her own Twitter thread, Nelson says, “Not sure at what point pointing out RS’s colossal screwups is worth the collateral damage to Jackie, who didn’t ask for this.”
Of course, this makes the assumption that “Jackie” is sincere with her claims that she experienced a rape but that it was so traumatic that she has misremembered what happened, something experts say is possible. But we don’t know this as a fact. We know nothing of “Jackie’s” motivations. We can’t say for sure if she is a monumental charlatan, but we can’t say she isn’t either. And the only way we’ll get close to that answer is by the sort of fact-checking that the Post and others are belatedly doing.
This claim that fact-checking the UVA rape story is a form of rape shaming the “victim” has been a common refrain among liberals and feminists. One feminist even tried to use the inconsistencies of stories by survivors of the sinking of the Titanic as “proof” that “Jackie” didn’t lie.
In another case, a writer for Bloomberg also took that line by insisting that the collapsing story is “failing victims” as if attacking the victims was the purpose of fact-checking a story that engulfed a university in controversy.
The truth or falsehood of the story has real-world stakes for all of UVA’s fraternities and sororities, which the school has suspended until January 9th–even after Rolling Stone‘s apology.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.